Anyone with Japanese calligraphy experience?

Howdy, partners! :cowboy_hat_face:

How would one get started with this? I could see this being a peaceful, relaxing hobby as well as something that gets me doing more with my Japanese. I watched a video on what materials I need, but I was wondering if anyone had links, books or other resources they wouldn’t mind sharing with a fellow gakusei?

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I think the best way to get started with calligraphy is in person. You could try looking for free, one-time calligraphy events at local libraries, universities, or cultural centers. Personally, I think that Chinese and Japanese calligraphy are similar enough that an event on either one would be helpful to a beginner.

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My best recommendation is to see if there are any Japanese culture clubs/organizations/special interest magazines in your area that have teachers, offer classes, or might be able to point you in the right direction.

If there’s nothing like this nearby, some teachers do remote lessons as well.

When I first started I was doing it on my own - very fun, but I wasn’t really improving. Being able to work with someone in-person, and have them correct my technique, made a HUGE difference.

Book-wise, there’s:


It’s old, but has some good copy-exercises.

And I highly recommend getting a shodo dictionary (shows how to write kanji and hiragana in various different styles). The one I have an love is:

There are lots of different ones available on Amazon Japan, just search 書道辞典

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I’m going to tag @Ncastaneda here, since they probably have something to say on the topic.

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I’m curious as to why you would need a tutor/class to do this.

You could just head to your local Daiso or art supply store and buy a calligraphy pen brush and give it a go for yourself. If you know stroke orders then that should be enough to get you started, and if you find you are enjoying it a lot and struggling to find the advice you need online then maybe get a tutor.

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My only experience coming from animes but ganbatte! It look really awesome from outside.

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Stroke order is just one aspect; each stroke also requires a particular brush technique. The appearance is affected by the speed of the stroke, movement of the arm and position of the brush. Even your posture is very important. If you don’t have someone to show you how, at the very least you should try to find a video of someone doing it.

Source: took a calligraphy option at my Japanese language school

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If you are just wanting to write, not necessarily well, this is fine. You could even save yourself the money and just use a regular pen. But there is technique in writing calligraphy well and if you’re going to go to the trouble of getting the materials, I’d say you’d want to do the job properly and get the teacher who can instruct you on proper form, posture, balance, how to hold the brush, where to apply more pressure on the page etc. Only a teacher can critique and give feedback on what you wrote. I’ve written many things that I thought ‘this is good’ only to have my teacher mark it with more orange ink than I’d used black.
@scallions If you are in in Japan, there are teachers everywhere and are not expensive. Many school age children take classes in their neighborhoods. My son’s class is ¥3000 a month which includes all the materials. Many community centres also have classes.

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@Naphthalene indeed, it’s becoming my favorite topic :hugs:

I think a local class is your best bet to see if you actually like it or not first.
I tried to mix a long trip to japan with an introduction to Shodo course cause it felt logical at the moment. :man_shrugging: .
Now with only a few weeks left of that trip and after taking an introductory course in japanese for about 3 months (which I must say was a big leap of faith on my behalf still beginning to talk), I think you’ll benefit the most covering the basics probably in your own language, since I feel is where the most essential explanations are a must and be able to quickly get them will allow you to move freely with another resources (or even mix it with japanese :upside_down_face: ).

If you can play a bit with different resources (ball point pen, small brush, big brush, etc) the better. If not for the course I would never had thought that ball point pen and handwritten style was such a nice topic too (and probably the one with the most application to daily activities).

I think after a basic course, picking up a book with samples it’s a great idea. I’ve picked books in japanese that I’ll be taking with me, and overall I feel I have tons of material to improve with just that.

The books aren’t so full of text that will be like that wall of kanji experience you can face when approching to novels or other books, so I feel reading the explanations even if it takes more or less to get them could provide a well of material to keep improving (most books break the explanations in 1-2 pages, so I think if you can read simple material and don’t mind looking a bit most foundational books will be ok).
It’s more or less the same in any medium, characters are devided by the shape and mostly you learn how to writte the radicals and then are presented with example characters that share that pattern.

I picked up this book (which was basic enough covering different styles and comes with a DVD) and then this reference course a more detailed explanation on big brush (Kaisho style, the one you usually see).

Other on which turned pages in the library were this one (also a in depth course, from zero to hero style) and this other one, more like a sample book , with some notes on important points and common mistakes for individual charactes.

With a basic introduction and a reference material you can use sites like this one

Actually a google search with the words 書道 (Shodo) + 手本 (model) or 臨書 (writing model) will bring similar resources too.

This one will generate you own models for you to print them and you can choose Kaisho or Gyousho styles. Also you can then check the reference book to judge you on the main points of the character (or take it to your sensei of course).

If you care to have the school experience, you can also watch the NHK Kokokoza Shodo series :sweat_smile: … it has the video lessons and a lot of pdf’s to do the same activity they do in the “class” at home. (also it’s free).

https://www.nhk.or.jp/kokokoza/tv/shodou/

Anyway, there are lots of videos on Youtube too, most are somewhat unorganized, so I can’t really pick one above the others.

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Also, the excerpts of this (and its two sibling books) look nice:

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Here’s a pretty good series of courses on Udemy:

It’s very slow-paced… the first (free) course basically only gives a lot of background and demonstrates how to draw 一 and 三. Very meditative in style, though. The instructor also talks entirely in fairly slow Japanese (with subtitles), so it’s not bad for listening practice either.

I also think using this “water writing paper” helps save a lot of ink and paper for practice:

(Don’t know about that specific product; it just happens to be the first link I saw. There are lots of other examples on Amazon if you browse around.)

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While I have no real experience with calligraphy myself (other than a few events my club held in college), one of my classes in college had us use these calligraphy brush pens (I think they’re called something like “fude-pen” if you look on amazon, but any brush pen in an art store would work) to practice stroke order and writing technique. The importance of know when to stop/swish/hook is real, especially in any Kanji lol

I think it could be a cheaper alternative to practice just the general look of writing kanji, but I don’t think it has the same feel as bringing a brush and ink stone to rice paper!

Edit: You can also search up kanji practice paper (or something along those lines) on amazon or smthn for these papers that have columns and rows of squares to practice writing kanji in. I think it’s typically used to practice writing in general, especially for kids and language learners who are first learning hiragana/katakana, so it could suit you purpose! Combine it with the brush pen and hey, you got something a little like calligraphy?

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Thanks to everyone who has participated so far! :blush:

I haven’t gotten a chance to really check any of these resources out, but I definitely will by the end of this week.

For everyone who mentioned classes… Is this really the best method? I honestly wasn’t looking to be a calligrapher by trade, or anything, haha. Just wanted to add it to my study routine and list of hobbies. At the most I’d hang some of this stuff around my room. Just a casual thing to do, not trying to become Mr. Shodou! :sweat_smile:

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:man_shrugging: … of course. you “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. :wink:

In any case is like a lot of other hobbies, you can learn a lot even with a few lessons, specially in the beginning, but that’s really up to you. I mean, is like painting… all analogies with that probably will apply too; you can buy some brush / paint and get hands on with it too :slightly_smiling_face: .

I see people mention stroke order like it was a thing, but that’s just writing, and actually you will learn that quite easily (if you aren’t aware of that already), the rules are few and the exceptions not many. So if for writing alone (which can be quite useul in itself of course) there’re are apps (Kani Study for example) and even an Anki deck of all kanji in WK with with touch screen enabled features here in the forum somewhere.

Someone posted a Udemy course, you can check that to see how much you can learn from classes (the first course is free).
Also if distance is an issue, e-learning with classes by Skype are also a thing.

I hope you like it, indeed it’s a great way to use japanese regularly… the’re a lot of resources in japanese only, so It’s a great way to strive at getting better at japanese too.:+1:

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If you can try a one-time thing, you probably won’t have to buy all the supplies, so that’s why I mentioned it as a way to try it out without the expense of buying a bunch of stuff for a hobby that might end up not being as exciting as you thought it would be.

Also, I think it really helps to have someone who can actually physically reposition your hands to the proper brush-hold, and give you individualized feedback. The people who make youtube videos make it look really easy, but I’ve seen a lot of people try and get discouraged because their first (and second, and third, and tenth, etc.) tries still look terrible.

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