Venturing down the difficult path of Shodo (書道)

I received an amazing shodo (Japanese calligraphy) set for Christmas! You can imagine how excited I was, being the big kanji geek that I am. I think that practising shodo is a  great way to learn and remember kanji, and will hopefully make my characters prettier as I do more of it.

But shodo also has a zen quality to it. When writing your characters you’re meant to clear your mind and enter a state called 無心 (mushin) – free from obstructive thoughts. I clearly was not in that state of mind, as all I could think of was “is that the right stroke order?? Are there too many strokes? Is that line too long??? Why does this look so wrong????”

The beautiful thing about shodo however, is that the calligrapher has but one opportunity to capture the character they wish to express. They can not correct it once it’s completed, so their brush stroke needs to be confident and fluid. It is said a lot can be understood of a calligrapher’s state of mind just by looking at their calligraphy.

Which is why before attempting any calligraphy on my new washi paper, I thought I’d better practice a little bit first. To practice kanji, I use this special paper that allows you to write with water, and eventually evaporates. Which means you can practice over and over again without wasting paper. 水でお練習しよう!

photo 1 (6)

photo 4 (8)
This is the character atsu, which means hot. I was hoping writing this character is nicely as possible would make the weather warmer! 暑くなるように… >_<

It’s always quite fun to watch as the character slowly disappears…

photo 1 (7)

So now here is the calligraphy set I received:

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Black inkk
Black ink
suzuri (ink stone)
suzuri (ink stone)
sumi (ink stick)
sumi (ink stick)
fude (brush)
fude (brush)

Now I love getting new things, and I’m always impatient to try them straight away. So although I’ve never done shodo before, I thought I’d be fine just setting everything up and starting straight away.

photo 2 (8)

My name in Kanji
My name in Kanji

But for some reason something looked very wrong! So I then went on to do what I should have done before I started: look up shodo on youtube!

In my impatience to get on with things I had forgotten to wash off the glue on the brush before starting. I say forgot. To be honest I didn’t know I was meant to!

And then I realised that that random black cloth that was still in the box, was actually meant to go beneath the paper!


So now I was ready to start again!

photo 4 (7)

My fude had been washed and the shitajiki was underneath the paper. Surely I’d be able to write beautiful characters now….


photo 5 (5)
No warm weather is going to come from this awful character! lol

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As you can see, my strokes lack confidence and fluidity (~_~;) and who knows what else it says about my state of mind!

But all in all this was a fun experience 😀 And now I’d really love to join a shodo class, and perhaps get correct instructions :p In the meantime if anyone has any tips and advice, I would much appreciate your comments below v(^-^)




2 thoughts on “Venturing down the difficult path of Shodo (書道)

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