I started shodo 書道 literally, the ‘way of writing’ as a hobby even though I don’t understand the Japanese language. In a way, I started calligraphy so I will be able to understand the language. Pretty practical, don’t you think?
Just to give an idea on my Japanese language learning progress, I can safely say that I can recognize about 1000+ kanji with their English meaning but I’m still learning onyomi and kunyomi readings of each. I may or may have added a few more kanji, but these 1000+ I already know the stroke order so I can safely write them using brush.
I have been practicing writing using an ordinary pen (ball pen or pencil) and paper when I bought my first Japanese calligraphy set. It just so happen that when I was walking on the streets of Nara, just outside Nara Park, I happen to pass by a calligraphy shop. (The shop is called Susukawa Bunrido at Sanjo-dori). My friend who was into calligraphy (Roman letters), wanted to see their collection of brush pens, so we went inside. Little did I know that I will not leave that store empty handed. They had on sale a Japanese calligraphy set for 3000 yen. It’s a plastic box that contains, 2 fude brushes, sumi ink (ink stick), suzuri, bunshin, and a container for water. I only found out the names and purpose of these things later on. The shop attendant told me that I also need a shitajiki (soft felt mat) and of course, hanshi (thin calligraphy paper). So I also bought them, for another 1000 yen. I don’t know what was on my mind but when I laid my hands on these things, I just knew I have to have them.
The first thing that I did when I got back to the Philippines is try my hand at using the calligraphy set. Once I knew what each of the things inside the box does, I proceeded in using them. Of the two fude brushes included in the box, I was surprised that I had a better grip with the bigger one. I can even control it and use with smaller strokes. This brush is sold on its own at 840 yen so I guess it is of better quality.
The most challenging thing for me now is to find myself a teacher. Of course I can always follow stroke order from animations available in various apps or YouTube videos but the comment and advise from a calligraphy teacher is the only way of knowing that I’m getting this right. I don’t even know if there is such a person in the Philippines. So I guess I have to enroll in a calligraphy class when I get back to Kyoto or Tokyo.
To close, what I really enjoyed most about this hobby is the relaxation it brings me. Preparing the ink from the ink stick, while patiently grinding on the suzuri takes time and I find myself entering a state of calmness and deep thought. It has also been a great way to familiarize myself with Kanji. When I get confident with my work, I’ll post some of them here. In the meantime, I will continue to practice and maybe soon I can go back to Japan and sit in an actual calligraphy class. がんばろうシーラ！