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New strokes for foreigners

Ryuzo Suzuki / The Yomiuri Shimbun

A participant practices writing the kanji “ai,” or love, during the calligraphy workshop for foreigners.

The Japan News“Think of this as musical notation,” master calligrapher and Yomiuri Shohokai calligraphy society executive Goju Ushikubo told participants from abroad as he demonstrated writing kanji in front of them. “It’s up to you to come up with the performance.”

As part of the Yomiuri Shohokai’s Tokyo exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo, a free workshop to teach foreigners calligraphy was held on Wednesday. The main instructor was Matthew James, who is a member of the society.

“Calligraphy is an art of lines,” said Takayuki Kamezawa, a part-time lecturer from Daito Bunka University in Tokyo, during a lecture he gave at the beginning of the workshop.

About 30 people listened to him speak about the origins of Chinese characters and how they evolved into the Japanese writing systems of today. They then watched Ushikubo write out an ancient Chinese poem and his own poem in front of a packed auditorium.

Ushikubo said as he wrote he thought: “First of all, ‘How should I write the next character?’ and watching how your brush moves and wondering if it’s coming out how you imagined it would.”

Back at the workshop, the participants watched him demonstrate various kanji from a workbook that was passed out to participants along with calligraphy kits. The sample characters included both kanji used today and ancient variations.

Kana calligrapher Hisako Shida showed participants how to write words in graceful hiragana, including “sakura” (cherry blossoms) and “tsukimi” (moon viewing).

When writing, “I think everyone shares a sense of what is beautiful, so I think [foreigners] should focus on making something they personally think is beautiful,” she said.

While everyone tried their hand at writing, James, Ushikubo and Shida wandered the workshop alongside other calligraphy pros and university students studying the art. They all encouraged the participants and offered advice.

“I learned something today, actually, about a language I’ve studied for about 10 years,” said Jonathon Allred from the United States, who has lived in Japan for eight years.

James was pleased with how the event had gone.

“Passing on the knowledge and the passion about this art is just wonderful,” he said.Speech


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