Kana/kanji writing practice book recommendation please?

I have a Lamy Safari, which is relatively cheap (probably the cheapest ‘quality’ fountain pen on the market, frankly). You don’t need a flex nib, even if it might help. It’s more that you need enough ink to flow out so you can shape the characters. Fude (筆) pens are good! I’ve got one from Zebra that’s on the larger side that’s basically a miniature brush with its own ink reservoir. (I’m about to run out of ink though…) I think being afraid to squish it is a valid concern. Hahaha. However, it should be fine as long as you vary pressure gradually and make sure the tip bends into the stroke (i.e. you don’t want to end up with a weird kink halfway down the tip). It’s probably best if you find some Japanese calligraphy videos to watch, which should give you an idea of how to move. (There are quite a few under #shodo or #kanji on Instagram, and possibly on Twitter. Kayo-sensei on Twitter is pretty good and produces clean characters, even if I don’t entirely agree with her aesthetic sense, possibly because I learnt from a Chinese calligrapher’s book.) A lot of Japanese calligraphers seem to use a regular three-finger pen grip instead of the traditional Chinese vertical brush hold, which should be much easier for someone used to Latin letters to imitate.

Hahaha. I guess it’s kind of natural, especially when you need to write more quickly. I learnt French cursive before coming to France so my handwriting would ‘fit in’, but frankly, I regularly switch between French cursive and my previous handwriting, which was in print/script, because I find it easier to read. Cursive is for taking rapid notes. I also tried to learn the American Palmer Method at some point, so I still have another ‘font’ in my arsenal (but I’m not very good at it).

Mhm, it’s pretty time-consuming. Learning the kana was probably a bit faster for me as a Chinese speaker, but I still had to pour in lots of time over the few weeks I spent on them in order to pick them up quickly. As for copying letters, I guess it’s true that imitation and tracing is rather pleasant. I used to draw ovals and lines for hours while trying to pick up the Palmer Method, and there was something rather mesmerising about the mechanical motions.

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I have one of these unbranded but good ones but I actually use cheap korean ones - olika: super light with a grip and felt to dispense the ink to the nib so they write dry: exactly what i don’t need for kana lol!

Yeah, there’s no way i can do the vertical holding! My fingers have been shaped by how i hold my pen. It’s gorgeous to watch calligraphy with a vertical hold though.

I remember reading up before i started WK on time needed to learn japanese and there was a special case for chinese natives so yeah, you have a clear advantage. The only alphabet i know is the roman alphabet and the only other letters i use regularly are greek letters for math. All those characters are much easier because they are all the same combination of height and width and i’ve written them thousands of time!

In france we use this paper to learn how to write as well:

image

Years of writing between the lines sure show up in the consistency i see now in my writing.

I was kinda shocked when i saw lined paper in the US and UK. My kittens’ handwriting is abominable: huge letters in all different sizes lol.

I only use graph paper nowadays. I love it. Works for me.

Thanks again for all the advice. It changed the way I looked at my kanji in my new lessons today.

Hahaha. Yes, this. I bought some Séyès paper for myself before leaving for France so I could get used to it. It’s funny how common it is even at the prépa level, but I guess it’s a good way to encourage people to write well (even if not everyone follows the lines).

Hahaha. In primary school, I vaguely remember having some paper with two or three subdivisions per line. It was meant to remind us how big we should make capital letters and small letters. We only used them for handwriting practice though, so you can imagine what happened after students stopped using them. :stuck_out_tongue: They’re non-existent at higher levels of education. (Say, from age 10 onwards?)

I switched to graph paper this year so my diagrams and calculations in maths and physics would be easier to see when I take notes. Much easier on the eyes. I write in blue, and the Séyès grid is blue too, so… yeah, not so great. Hahaha.

You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy yourself. :slight_smile:

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Watching everyone come up with ingenious solutions for this (e.g. using Excel) is breaking my heart - I have a bunch of python scripts I wrote back in February that generate practice sheets like this for arbitrary kanji using the KanjiVG stroke order dataset, no real effort required. KanjiVG stroke order isn’t quite as calligraphic as the beautiful fonts we’re accustomed to, but that’s where your brush pen comes in.

Here are some I made of the WaniKani “pleasant” set for another user here to give you a sense of what the original program output looks like.

It’s on midnight here, but I would be happy to bash something together tomorrow that gives you something like this for the full set of kanji that WK teaches - please let me know if you would prefer it to be landscape / portrait, paper size, grid preferences, or other small adjustments you might require.

edit: should probably put the red ball that indicates the start of the stroke back on too, and corrected a small typo in the stroke order drawing code - now I really have to sleep.

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That’s amazing and so elegant! I was gonna print on A4 and leave a box at the top with the info for the kana/kanji so tables like you have them that cover the bottom 3/4 of an A4 would be perfect.

Just saved your stroke order doc as well. Thanks for sharing. I can’t do python but I’d be curious to see the script. It’s on my work list to learn it but I’m ignoring it… It would be an incentive to learn a bit!

I’d made cells 15 x 15mm for the kana. I’m not sure what standard kanji size is but 15 x 15 is pretty small for a big kanji already!

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edit: see my reply further down for a better version of this

Here is a pdf with tracing pages for the 2136 常用 kanji. It is unfortunately really big - 127mb or so.

I will share my code for it eventually, but I feel like it needs a rewrite first - to make it neater, to make the process faster (the pages took about five hours to generate) and to make the resulting SVG files that are then converted to PDF smaller. At the moment, every box / guideline / kanji on the page is drawn independently, which makes for very big SVG source files. It really should use a proper grid made of lines and SVG’s support for reusing elements.

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I read somewhere that kanji usually do get written a little bigger than the kana, yes.

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I mentioned this to my partner and he found something very similar to yours on github… was that not you?

Not me - the only stuff I have on github is musical instrument firmware I’ve written. Same name as here.

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The name was so similar!
I just spotted one that did the kana as well

There it is

Are you guys looking for something like this?

TL;DR

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Rewriting this to leverage <use> and CSS variables for the colouring rules was a huge time-saver - it now only takes three minutes to generate the 2136 jouyou kanji, and the file sizes for each page are now about 3% of the original versions - the final pdf is 29mb now, which is more reasonable.

I also took advantage of the improved configuration code to bring the practice squares up to 30mm. The new version of the pdf can be viewed or downloaded from this link. Source (python) is here.

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Quasi-related… I bought some of the Frixion erasable pens, so I could write on some rocketbook cardstock to practice kana, and then microwave it to erase and re-practice without wasting as much paper… not sure if the microwave energy to erase the rocketbook is more or less wasteful than the paper thoufgh…

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Also related, I’ve been obsessed with this guy’s channel on youtube where all he does is write with beautiful and extreme precision. Here’s him going through all 80 grade 1 kanji:

And here’s the pen he uses: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009JYXT60/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It’s thick (1.0mm) so you can get the variations in widths as you write - it’s definitely something I enjoy practicing just to “switch off” and zone out.

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do you know any books or sites etc where i can learn how to write stroke endings with a pencil? like how yo move my hand etc. have yet to find a resource that teaches me this. i learn japanese in isolation but want to learn to write properly from the start.

I think it’s quite rare to find tutorials involving pencils because most people need to write with a pen or a brush, and pen calligraphy videos (at least, in English and Japanese) are rarer than brush calligraphy videos. As far as books go, I strongly doubt that you’ll find anything in English. I could be wrong though, so try looking around. This book that I recommended on the topic that you started should do the trick:

It’s in Japanese, however, so I know that might mean it’s not immediately helpful or useful. Even so, just reading all the ‘sound effect’ katakana and following the arrows and shapes included in the book should teach you quite a lot.

That aside, I think you should take a look at the images I shared in this post on your previous topic:

In order to adapt the ‘brush tip’ images to pen/pencil writing, imagine the brush tip size changes as pressure changes and possibly pen-to-paper angle changes: less pressure and more vertical pen/pencil hold for thinner lines, and more pressure and (sometimes) a smaller pen-to-paper angle for thicker strokes. In order to create tapering, reduce pressure as you draw lines. For sharp hooks/points at the ends of strokes, flicking your pen is an effective approach. (By the way, when I first attempted to ‘write well’ using a pen, my approach was generally to attempt to replicate brushstroke techniques with the pen nib. It worked pretty well – and I reasoned exactly as I just described, in terms of pressure and angle – so I don’t think you should dismiss brush calligraphy tutorials as useless outright.)

I also seriously recommend that you experiment with following the directional arrows in the diagrams I added to that post. Grab a pen or fairly soft pencil and try moving the writing instrument in accordance with those directional lines while attempting to stay within the confines of a stroke (i.e. don’t leave visible white space inside the loops that appear inside one stroke on the diagram). You should start seeing familiar brushstroke-like contours appearing. These are things you’ll really understand only after trying them yourself or after seeing them being done in front of you. Without practical experience, you won’t understand how the movements described can create the shapes you’re looking for.

Finally, again, please refer to the diagrams I added to that post, particularly the ones filled with examples of ‘basic strokes’. All you really need to master in order to get started is the techniques for making such basic strokes, meaning that those are the movements you need to learn first. From there on, you’ll just have to learn to vary the angles and to have a sense of ‘aesthetically pleasing proportions’ for kanji. The closest thing I can find to a tutorial is examples on Takumi-san’s channel. If you find that you need explanation and that trying to imitate what you see is too hard, then I suggest looking out for videos that contain English subtitles on his channel. There aren’t many of them, but the few that there are are quite instructive. Take a look at these two, for instance:

The second probably won’t be that helpful for you at this point, because it deals with more general issues of proportion and how to nicely arrange characters on a page. The first, however, deals with how to write hiragana. You’ll notice that some of these shapes reappear in kanji (I’m not talking about entire kana, but rather certain angles and types of tapering), meaning that you can reapply what you learn from that video when writing kanji.

The last thing I’d like to recommend is not to overthink this: experiment and try to see, ideally by imitating videos, what seems to reproduce what you see in models that you’d like to match. If all the fancy directional lines and ‘movement within a stroke’ diagrams don’t work for you, then take a look at how someone like Takumi-san writes kanji. First, take note of the correct direction for forming the stroke. That’s the most basic step. Thereafter, ask yourself what seems likely to create such a shape. If you see a slight bend right at the beginning of the stroke (e.g. what you often see at the top of 丿), well… maybe there really is a bend! Try going diagonally downwards from left to right at say, 45º to the vertical, and then draw your writing instrument vertically downwards. Does your stroke look like the model? Yes? Good. Not quite? Then what’s different? Most likely, your initial bent stub is a little too long. What happens if you shorten it? Do you see the model appearing now? It’s really very intuitive. Your pen nib is a sphere, but depending on how you angle the pen, how you drag it around and how much pressure you apply, the shape of the marks you make changes. I sincerely believe it’s possible to figure this out by watching videos and imitating them. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Calligraphy in English is the same: you need to be able to produce appropriate variations in line thickness and angle. The only difference is that the characters are less complex.

Use Takumi-san’s pencil hiragana video (the first one) with the subtitles on as a base for learning the right techniques. (Bonus: something that you can learn by watching but which he doesn’t explain: pay close attention to how he starts strokes. He move the pencil a little and stops briefly before changing direction and continuing. That’s how you get nice little ‘starting stubs’. For a particularly good example, watch how he writes と.) I’m pretty sure things will start falling into place afterwards.

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Your advice is very valuable always.

So curious: when kids in Japan start learning kanji in school does the teacher make them use brush pens for all lessons or do they learn with just a pencil till they get older?

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I’m not sure, but there’s a page here
https://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/education.html
that says they learn with a brush in their third year of school. I don’t know if they learn kanji before that though. Most likely they do. I don’t know a lot about the Japanese education system though, so it’s probably best if you do a little Googling.

I’ve been watching the first video; you’re right, it’s very instructive. At the beginning, he shows that he is using a 0.9mm pencil. Does he say if he is using a softer lead than the HB standard?

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i don’t know about writing kana and kanji but i was watching a lettering video yesterday where the lady had exercises for pencil (to save on brushes cos they’re very expensive to practice with) and she used 2B. 2B is soft enough to get different thicknesses depending on pressure.

2B is my favourite to write with pencil even if i don’t often do so and also for sketching stuff i won’t need to erase. i even have a mechanical pencil with 2B!

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