Shodo is classical Japanese calligraphy, an art form that would be taught early on in school, to help cultivate the student’s powers of concentration. The beautiful handwriting is considered as a reflection of their character and personality as well.
Japanese calligraphy is based on Chinese characters, known in Japanese as kanji. In the Heian period (794-1185), hirgana, Japanese sounds written with Chinese characters, evolved. Members of the Imperial court used it to create uniquely Japanese styles of calligraphy that were more slender, fluid and elegant than Chinese calligraphic scripts.
This skill of writing beautiful characters is taken by many as a hobby as well. The aim of these hobbyists is to become a Shihan (Masters) of this art form and show their beautiful work in exhibitions held across Japan.
There are 5 different styles of Japanese Calligraphy:
Kaisho is a simplified version of Reisho. This is a calligraphic style in which dots and lines do not run into each other, with each dot and line clearly defined and it is currently the most commonly used style.
Gyosho is based on Kaisho with some dots and lines written without pause. For this reason, it became possible to write quickly. This is a calligraphic style between Kaisho and Sosho (cursive script).
Sosho was born of Reisho in the same way as Kaisho and, as there were less strokes than the previous Reisho, it became easy to write quickly. This is a difficult calligraphic style for ordinary people to read nowadays because there are more abbreviations than Gyosho.
There are two types of Tensho: Daiten (large seal script) and Shoten (small seal script). In contrast to the calligraphic style of Daiten used in Sekkobun characters, Shoten characters were used when the unification of characters was conducted in the unification of the State by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C. This is still used on seals in Japan.
As Tensho was not practical (efficient), following this, Reisho soon became widespread as a style that was quick and efficient to write.
A feature of Reisho is the tails of the horizontal strokes called Hataku, the calligraphic style is horizontal as opposed to Tensho and it was written with ink on wood strips (Mokkan) or bamboo strips (Chikkan). There were also improvements in writing brushes making it possible to represent Hataku. This is still used on banknotes in Japan.
Calligraphy requires a fude brush, sumi ink, a suzuri inkwell, hanshi paper, a shitajiki felt pad and a bunchin paperweight. They each come in several varieties and price ranges. Inkwells and water droppers in particular are available in many beautiful choices, so it could be fun to build an attractive collection as your skills grow.
Calligraphy is making a comeback in primary school as a way to generate interest in traditional culture, teach etiquette and instill discipline. It is also being sought out by adults of all ages and walks of life as a means achieving a degree of tranquility and inner peace.
In this modern day and age, technology is doing its part in helping out here as well — robots are being used to help children learn this deft art. The brush is held by the student and the robot, the latter being responsible for guiding and training the student: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/calligraphy-robot-japan_n_3686261.html
Shodo is perhaps to most familiar element of the Japanese culture. Checkout our MYrago experience where you can have your very own encounter with Shodo: #Tokyo: Experience Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy) with a Local
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