Kana/kanji writing practice book recommendation please?

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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Thank you!
I’ve tried writing using a 0.5mm pencil with HB and it’s far too sharp.
I can buy Pentel 0.9mm 2B leads (and a matching pancil to try).

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2B was the standard when I was in school in Singapore, including for shading answers on for multiple-choice questions marked by machines. You probably won’t have too much trouble with HB, but I think it’s a lot easier to use a 2B pencil, especially if you want to be able to vary line thickness easily.

I’m personally used to using 0.5mm leads, but anything that works for you goes. I personally might find 0.9mm a bit too thick, but for the size of characters Takumi-san was writing, I think it was a good choice.

Oh, and… no, he doesn’t, but judging from the colour of the line, I think that’s a B at the hardest.

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Thank you.
I think I’ll get some 2B Leads for the 0.5mm pencil too - good for doing my Genki exercises!
The 0.9mm looks like it will be good for practice on some larger squared Genkouyoushi paper.

I’ve got a nice Cross fountain pen and it might be nice to use that in the future if I can get my writing up to scratch.

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ooh, i have a 2b 0.2 pentel orenz mechanical pencil. gonna come to some use. got it so i can write kanji neater later on when i finally start writing smaller.

Resurrecting this thread to thank you for the recommendation! I bought this book (as well as its pink sibling) and it’s been very helpful as a reference work. It shows you all the important details to pay attention to while writing particular characters and it does a decent job at teaching them in an order that makes sense. Combining this book with Takumi-san’s videos is all one needs for penmanship, I should think.

To go slightly off-topic: does anyone happen to know of a similar style book (that is: aimed at primary school kids, and with lots of pictures for reference) for brush calligraphy? There are loads of youtube videos out there, but there’s nothing like a school textbook to help you figure out a sensible order for learning things in.

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