For my CIP project, I decided to join my host sister in learning calligraphy.
The classroom is found at the top floor in a building next to the local train station. Students ranged from elementary school children to people well over their 50 years. Although Sensei individually teaches students at their respective level, the students of all ages and levels interact. In such a way, the newer students can be inspired by seeing someone else to produce a beautiful piece, and the older students can be reminded of how pure and fresh raw calligraphy can be.
Classes consist of sensei demonstrating how to draw a character in Shodo (Cursive) Style and I copying it several times-usually until I get the hang of it. Starting Calligraphy, I didn’t think it would be too hard, we are just writing, right…but it actually takes a lot of practice. During my first lesson, I was eager to begin, but Sensei kept telling me to go slower as I write my characters. In order to carefully define the strokes: the ink must be allowed to sink into the paper before continuing, which required slower movements.
Before the fall break, Sensei gave me a calligraphy gift. It was written on a small gold-painted wooden board. In the middle it had the characters for Red leaves:紅葉 and surrounding it were characters that I had learned how to read and write in Shodo style. Such as Arashiyama嵐山, Bamboo竹, and to spend time pleasantly: 遊ぶ . The gift was personalized, and made me appreciate it so much more. During one of our conversations, the topic of nature and seasons came up, and I learned that Autumn was his favorite. I purchased some tea over my fall break, specifically an autumn flavor, as an omiyage for him. I was really happy to see his reaction as he received it. Gift giving culture and appreciation for the seasons is real in Japan!
Learning calligraphy is like learning a different set of Kanji, some of them don’t look anything like the print version, but learning a traditional art or craft can really give you a different perspective, and you realize that these arts are still very present in Japan’s Pop Culture.
It seems like even more important than learning calligraphy, you were able to grow really close to your teacher as well. I’m jealous you were able to learn a traditional Japanese craft and build meaningful relationships in the process! You’ll have to show us some of your calligraphy in class sometime.
Learning calligraphy was fun, and I definitely enjoyed the gift giving (and receiving) part, as I feel like it is an important part in really solidifying a connection with a person.
Maybe, I’ll bring some pieces to class sometime.
I think it’s really cute you were able to bond with your host sister through your CIP! – do you think it impacted your relationship with her and the rest of the family?
In regards to the actual writing process, would you say it’s been helpful in studying Kanji? I was thinking it would help make sense of stroke order to some degree, for example. I can see how it could be tedious at first, but I’d think it would help you slow down and appreciate all of what’s around you here in Japan!
Yes! Doing calligraphy allowed us to spend more time together!
Practicing Calligraphy has helped me learn Kanji in general, but not really the stroke order since the characters are simplified.
Valeria, your CIP seems so cool! I really, really, was very enthralled by the presentation that you gave in the Artisans course where you showed us some of the pieces you’d done, compared to your sensei’s pieces. I think that you really have a talent for calligraphy, and definitely should keep it up. 🙂
Though, I will confess…I’m kind of curious to know how your skills developed compared to your host sister’s~
Thanks Rachael! Im happy that you enjoyed my presentation.
My host sister is actually focusing on 習字 which is the block script so she can have beautiful penmanship. I’m pretty sure she will move on to 書道 soon.