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Japanese calligraphy "Shodo"

Dive into the Art of Calligraphy with Malligraphy: A Guide for Enthusiasts
<Japanese calligraphy workshop studio "Malligraphy”>


Tools and Materials

The Four Treasures of Calligraphy (文房四宝)

The Four Treasures of Calligraphy, known as “Bunbō Shihō” (文房四宝) in Japanese, are essential tools for traditional East Asian calligraphy and painting. These tools have been revered and used for centuries, playing a crucial role in the practice of calligraphy. Here’s a detailed explanation of each of the Four Treasures:

Significance in Japanese Calligraphy

In Japanese calligraphy, these four treasures are more than just tools; they are considered essential for mastering the art. The quality and care of these items directly influence the outcome of the calligraphy work. Practitioners often develop a deep appreciation for their tools, treating them with respect and care.


The brush is perhaps the most iconic tool in calligraphy. Made from animal hair such as goat, horse, or weasel, the brush’s flexibility allows for a wide range of strokes and expressions. The handle is typically made from bamboo, but other materials like wood or bone can also be used. The brush’s quality and type can significantly impact the style and outcome of the calligraphy.


The ink stick is a solid form of ink that must be ground on an inkstone and mixed with water to create liquid ink. Traditional ink sticks are made from soot and animal glue, sometimes with added fragrances. The process of grinding the ink stick on the inkstone is meditative and allows the calligrapher to control the ink’s consistency and intensity.​

There are two colors of ink: vermilion and black. Vermilion ink serves a similar purpose to a red pen used by teachers to correct students' work.


​3.Ink stone(硯/Suzuri)

The inkstone is a flat, smooth stone used to grind the ink stick and mix it with water. It often has a well for holding the water and the resulting ink. High-quality inkstones are carved from specific types of stone, prized for their durability and smooth texture. The act of preparing ink using the inkstone is an integral part of the calligraphy ritual.

☆Plastic inkstone pool

Plastic inkstone pools are commonly used in calligraphy and ink painting, especially for beginners, educational purposes, and situations where portability is important. Here are the key features and benefits of plastic inkstone pools:Plastic inkstone pools are lightweight and adurable, making them highly convenient for beginners, educational settings, and portable use. Their ease of use and accessibility make them a popular choice for many. They are an excellent first step for those new to calligraphy or for everyday practice.


The paper used in calligraphy, often referred to as “washi” (和紙) in Japan, is typically handmade and highly absorbent. This type of paper can handle the varying ink densities and brush pressures, allowing for intricate and expressive strokes. The texture and thickness of the paper can vary, affecting the final appearance of the calligraphy.


Other calligraphy tools

In addition to the four treasures of the study, which we have introduced and are essential for calligraphy, there are other necessary tools as well.   

1.Paper weightk

It is used to hold the paper in place so it doesn't move while you write. 

When practicing calligraphy, it's important that the paper stays still. If the paper moves, the characters you're writing can become distorted or messy. By using a Paper weight to secure the paper, you can write smoothly and accurately. Bunchin are usually placed on the corners or the top and bottom of the paper to keep it steady.

In addition to their practical use,Paper weight often come in various designs and decorations, adding to the beauty and elegance of the calligraphy setup. Some Paper weight are considered works of art and are collected for their aesthetic value.

2.Calligraphy mat

A Calligraphy mat is a thick felt mat used in Japanese calligraphy. It is placed on a table or the floor and serves several important purposes. Firstly, it protects the table or floor from ink spills and stains. Secondly, it provides a stable environment by preventing the paper and tools from slipping. Additionally, the vibrant colors of the Calligraphy mat add to the beauty of the calligraphy setting. Lastly, it absorbs sound, creating a quiet atmosphere for focused writing. These features make using a Calligrrphy mat essential for an enjoyable and comfortable calligraphy experience.


When these tools are set up correctly, it looks like this.
When placing a sample piece, it should be placed on the left.

​Now you are ready to try your hand at calligraphy!


The Eight Principles of "Eternal"

Eiji Happo: The Eight Principles of "Eternal" Character
In calligraphy, the fundamental practice often revolves around "Eiji Happo," which refers to the eight strokes found in the 'Kanji' "永" (eternal). Mastering these eight principles helps in learning the basic brush techniques necessary for writing many other characters.

Practicing these strokes helps in developing the fundamental skills of calligraphy. The character "永" is widely used for practice because of its simplicity and comprehensive structure, making it easy for beginners to understand and practice.

1.Soku (Side Stroke): A leftward stroke, where the brush is swept down to the left.
2.Roku (Horizontal Stroke): A horizontal stroke, where the brush is pulled across to the right.
3.Do (Vertical Stroke): A vertical stroke, where the brush is drawn straight down.
4.Teki (Rightward Sweep): A rightward sweep, where the brush is swept down to the right.
5.Saku (Dot Stroke): A dot, where the brush is placed and momentarily held.
6.Raku (Short Sweep): A short sweep, where the brush is quickly flicked out.
7.Taku (Hook Stroke): A hook, where the brush is drawn and then sharply turned upward.
8.Taku (Long Dot): A long dot, where the brush is placed and then pulled upward.

Japanese calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy known as "Shodo".Japanese calligraphy invloves writing characters using a brush and ink,and it is an art form that the originated from China.Despite it's Chinese roots,calligraphy has a history spanning thousands of years in Japan and remains a cherished cultural tradition to this day. 

Would you try Japanese calligraphy in Kyoto,Japan?

You can experience Japanese calligraphy at Malligraphy(Japanese calligraphy workshop studio) Kyoto.Kyoto is the most historic city in Japan.

<The History of Japanese Calligraphy>

Japanese calligraphy, known as shodo, is an art form that involves the skillful writing of kanji (Chinese characters) and kana (Japanese syllabary) using a brush and ink. This ancient art has a rich history and deep cultural significance in Japan.

Origins and Development

The origins of Japanese calligraphy date back to the 5th century when Chinese characters were introduced to Japan from China. Initially, Japanese calligraphy closely followed Chinese styles. However, over time, Japanese calligraphers developed their own unique techniques and styles, integrating native Japanese characters and expressions.

 • Nara Period (710-794): During this period, Japanese calligraphy was heavily influenced by the Tang dynasty of China. The famous “Shosoin” documents, stored in the Shosoin Repository in Nara, are exemplary pieces from this era.
 • Heian Period (794-1185): This era saw the creation of the kana script, which allowed for more fluid and expressive writing. The “Kukai” style, named after the famous monk Kukai, and the “Ono no Michikaze” style emerged, marking the beginning of uniquely Japanese calligraphy.
 • Kamakura to Edo Periods (1185-1868): Calligraphy continued to evolve, with notable figures such as Fujiwara no Kozei and Hon’ami Koetsu contributing to its development. During the Edo period, the art became more accessible to the public, and various schools and styles, such as the “Kaisho” (block script), “Gyosho” (semi-cursive script), and “Sosho” (cursive script), flourished.

Cultural Significance

Japanese calligraphy is more than just writing; it is a meditative practice that reflects the calligrapher’s state of mind and spirit. The act of creating each brushstroke with precision and grace is considered a form of Zen practice. Calligraphy is also an integral part of various Japanese cultural ceremonies, such as tea ceremonies and New Year’s celebrations.

Modern Influence

Today, Japanese calligraphy is still widely practiced and admired both as a traditional art form and as a modern artistic expression. Many schools and workshops offer calligraphy classes, allowing visitors to experience this beautiful and calming art.

Experience Japanese Calligraphy

For those interested in experiencing Japanese calligraphy firsthand, many cultural centers, museums, and temples in Japan offer calligraphy workshops. These sessions provide a wonderful opportunity to learn about the history, techniques, and cultural significance of shodo while creating your own piece of art.

Japanese calligraphy is a fascinating blend of history, art, and spirituality. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply curious, exploring the world of shodo offers a unique insight into Japan’s rich cultural heritage.

<Japanese writing culture>

Japanese writing culture has a rich and diverse history, evolving from ancient times to the present day. Here are some key aspects and historical backgrounds:

1. Development of Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy, known as “shodo,” was heavily influenced by Chinese techniques and philosophies, particularly during the Tang dynasty. By the Heian period, Japan developed its unique style called “wayō,” characterized by the use of kana characters. Renowned calligraphers like Fujiwara no Teika and Ono no Michikaze played significant roles in this era.

2. Handwritten Literature

Classic works like “The Tale of Genji” and “The Pillow Book” from the Heian period are notable examples of handwritten Japanese literature. These works are celebrated not only for their literary content but also for their beautiful calligraphy and illustrated scrolls, showcasing a blend of literature and visual art.

3. Everyday Writing and Education

During the Edo period, the spread of education through terakoya (temple schools) made writing skills more accessible to the general populace. Writing became essential for everyday communication, including official documents and personal correspondence, and many people kept diaries.

4. Calligraphy Schools

Japan boasts numerous calligraphy schools, each with distinct aesthetics and techniques. Examples include the Kan’ei style, known for its fine lines, and the bold, dynamic strokes of the Ise style.

5. Modern Writing Culture

In modern Japan, writing culture remains significant. Calligraphy is taught in schools, and exhibitions and contests are common. Despite the digital age, handwritten letters and notes are cherished for their personal touch. Calligraphy is also popular as a meditative and artistic practice.

6. The Future of Writing Culture

While preserving traditional practices, Japanese writing culture continues to evolve. Innovations like digital calligraphy and contemporary art forms are emerging, blending tradition with modernity.

Japanese writing culture is more than just writing; it’s a profound means of expressing personal sentiments and cultural values. Visitors to Japan can experience this rich heritage through calligraphy workshops, museums, and cultural exhibitions.

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The history of calligraphy dates back to ancient China, with its origins in the oracle bone script around 3000 BCE. These were characters carved on turtle shells and animal bones, considered the oldest Chinese characters. Calligraphy evolved alongside the development of Chinese characters.

The Transmission from China to Japan

Calligraphy was introduced to Japan between the 4th and 7th centuries, during a period when Japan actively embraced Chinese culture and technology. Key moments include:

 1. Envoys to China: In 607, Prince Shōtoku sent envoys to the Sui Dynasty, followed by missions to the Tang Dynasty. These interactions brought advanced Chinese culture to Japan, including calligraphy.
 2. Introduction of Kanji: Chinese characters (kanji) were introduced to Japan, forming the foundation of Japanese writing and calligraphy.
 3. Kūkai and Saichō: In the early 9th century, Kūkai and Saichō traveled to China to study calligraphy. Kūkai, known as one of the “Three Great Calligraphers,” had a significant impact on Japanese calligraphy.

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