Coming into KCJS, I was certain that I would join a club for my CIP project. I was excited to interact with college-aged students at Doshisha and learn more about circle culture. However, when I found out that my host mother was good friends with a calligraphy teacher, I was immediately interested. I had never tried calligraphy, English or otherwise, and found myself drawn to it.
Not to state the obvious, but calligraphy is really difficult: there is a posture for it, you have to have the right tools and set up your paper in the correct manner. As the semester progressed, I also came to realize that there is a proper headspace for writing something well-balanced and appealing to the eye. Taking calligraphy this semester really helped me to think about the relationship between artist, brush, paper, ink, and final product – as an art history major, making these connections was important. I found myself looking forward to returning each week in order to learn more and progress my technique.
Most valuable of all, however, is the relationship that I formed with the calligraphy teacher, Asakusa-sensei. At first, I wasn’t sure how to communicate with her. As time progressed, though, she began helping me with Japanese as I helped her with English. Our conversations ranged from clothes to earthquakes. Although the typical teacher-student relationship can be quite rigid, I feel as though I have earned a true friend within Asakusa-sensei. At the end of each lesson, we would chat over tea and a snack. She introduced me to interesting aspects of Japanese culture, like how to wear a kimono, the tofu truck, and we even went to see the emperor of Japan drive by when he was visiting Kyoto. Her guidance and warmth has encouraged me to continue pursuing calligraphy when I return to the United States.
I encourage anyone who is unsure of what to pursue for their CIP project to outstep the limits of your own mind. The most valuable things that I gained from my CIP was the experience in a new art form and the companionship of my teacher – you can find such treasures all around Kyoto, if you just look a little bit outside of your comfort zone.