The Way of Writing, Getting into Japanese Calligraphy

I started shodo 書道 literally, the ‘way of writing’ as a hobby even though I don’t understand the Japanese language. In a way, I started Japanese calligraphy so I will be able to understand the language. Pretty practical, don’t you think?

Just to give an idea on my Japanese language learning progress, I can safely say that I can recognize about 1000+ kanji with their English meaning. But I’m still learning the onyomi and kunyomi readings of each. I already know the stroke order of these 1000+ characters, so I can safely write them using brush.

A very rough sumi-e (ink painting)

I bought my first Japanese calligraphy set in a calligraphy shop called Susukawa Bunrido at Sanjo-dori, just outside Nara Park. My artist-calligrapher friend, wanted to see their collection of brush pens so we went inside. Little did I know that I will not leave that store empty-handed.

They had on sale a Japanese calligraphy set for 3000 yen. It’s a plastic box that contains, 2 fude brushes, sumi ink (ink stick), suzuri, bunshin, and a container for water. I only found out the names and purpose of these things later on. The shop attendant told me that I also need a shitajiki (soft felt mat) and of course, hanshi (thin calligraphy paper). So I also bought them, for another 1000 yen. As I laid my hands on these things, I just knew I had to have them.

Shodo set for 3000 yen
3000 yen calligraphy set with folded shitajiki
inside of a shodo set
Inside the basic shodo set

Trying it Out

Once I knew what each of the things inside the box does, I proceeded in using them. Of the two fude brushes included in the box, I was surprised that I had a better grip with the bigger one. I can even control it and use with smaller strokes. This brush is sold on its own at 840 yen. So I guess it is of better quality.

Shodo brushes
The 2 brushes included in the set
sample japanese calligraphy characters
Trying out different styles; using the bigger brush, I was surprised I was able to create small characters

Finding myself a Japanese calligraphy teacher here in the Philippines is a real challenge. Of course, I can always follow stroke order from animations available in various apps or YouTube videos but the comment and advise from a calligraphy teacher is the only way of knowing that I’m getting this right. I don’t even know if there is such a person in the Philippines. So I guess I have to enroll in a calligraphy class when I get back to Kyoto or Tokyo.

Suzuri and Sumi
The sumi (ink stick) & Suzuri
Brushes at a Kinokuniya Store in Sapporo
After Nara, I’ve been on the look out for Calligraphy tools, these are from Tokyu Hands in Sapporo

To close, what I really enjoyed most about this hobby is the relaxation it brings me. Preparing the ink from the ink stick, while patiently grinding on the suzuri takes time and I find myself entering a state of calmness and deep thought. It has also been a great way to familiarize myself with Kanji. When I get confident with my work, I’ll post some of them here. In the meantime, I will continue to practice and maybe soon I can go back to Japan and sit in an actual calligraphy class.  がんばろうシーラ!


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