• 17 . 02 . 05
  • I try my hand at calligraphy and find it far too unsteady to write even my own name!

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Penned Name

Today I got a chance to try my hand at Japanese calligraphy thanks once again to the volunteers at Heartful Square. Honestly, without these people I’d have experienced far less of Japan and Japanese culture than I have. Big thanks once more to Izumi and the other volunteers!

The majority of 漢字 are composed of a number of smaller kanji or katakana parts, called radicals. Once you can write those basic radicals you can essentially write Japanese, discounting the not insignificant problem of having to remember thousands of semi-arbitrary combinations. Some kanji are pretty easy to remember,  for ‘rain’ for instance, or  for ‘field’, but others are just collections of seemingly random ideas.  for instance means ‘number’ and contains the radicals  and  representing ‘rice’, ‘woman’ and ‘hit’ respectively. To learn these, lots of people like to invent stories to help them remember the constituent parts. You could imagine a story about a someone hitting a woman for some rice to remember ‘number’, for example, or some other association.

As if trying to remember 2000 pointless stories isn’t bad enough, for ‘correct’ writing and calligraphy especially, you need to follow the correct stroke order and try to maintain the correct pressure on the brush. In this way, simple writing is elevated to a kind of art-form. Needless to say, the two hours I did it is not going to produce the same results as a monk who has spent his entire life meditating under a waterfall thinking about writing (and I’m surethere are some), but I was happy in that at least you could read what was intended! Remember my name? This is it again.

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