Esja Staggs: Calligraphy Club

Before coming to Japan, one of my goals for my time abroad was to learn 書道, and so I decided to attempt to join the Doshisha calligraphy club. Unfortunately, the Doshisha calligraphy club did not meet until the beginning of their semester, and so it was impossible to actually start my CIP until well into October. Moreover, since I reached out to the club officers via email, it was extremely difficult to maintain contact and decide on a time that I could participate in their meetings. Eventually, however, I was able to meet with one of the club officers, who then lead me to the clubroom at the Shinmachi campus. Before entering the room, it was necessary to first knock, and then say 失礼します while opening the door. Although I did not speak directly to many of the other club members, I would overhear their conversations while I practiced. Particularly, I noticed the level of formality and/or informality of the conversations, as well as the use of Kansai-ben and colloquial speech. As 書道 is by its very nature a quiet activity, I did not speak to anyone in the room besides the club member that was assisting me for the day. Consequently, most of my observations pertaining to culture and language were vicarious. Although I still do not know the names of any of the 部員 that have gone out of their way to sit with me for well over an hour and (arguably in vain) teach me how to write characters that they learned as schoolchildren, I am extremely grateful that they allowed a 留学生 such as myself to take up their time and resources.

2 thoughts on “Esja Staggs: Calligraphy Club

  1. 書道 sounds like an interesting but challenging activity! I’m curious about how you think your experience in the Doshisha calligraphy club was different from that of other students who chose to take private lessons instead – in terms of learning 書道, practicing Japanese, and gaining some sort of insight into Japanese culture.

    Also, what did you notice about the level of formality and/or informality of the conversations?

    • For starters, I think being taught by my peers (age-wise at least) was likely a much different experience from being taught by sensei. I can’t speak for the skill level or expertise of the club members (since I still don’t know that much about 書道) but I felt slightly less intimidated to be taught by someone my age.

      In terms of formality, most of the other club members (namely the ones I didn’t speak to directly) mostly used 砕けた話し方 and really heavy use of 関西弁 when talking to each other, especially the guys. I had a lot of trouble hearing people when they spoke to me, but I think they used 「ます」体.