Japanese shodo

Like many stylists I love typography and I have various random letters and words scattered around our house and once I even picked up a very large discarded letter ‘U’ during an early morning walk!

Yum letters


letter K wrBut it isn’t just the alphabet that fascinates me, I also love shodo – the Japanese art of calligraphy. I was lucky enough to study this while living in Tokyo and find it a very peaceful way to relax. I’m not normally one for rules, but I really appreciate the strict rules that govern the pratice of shodo – once you commit your brush to the paper there is no going back, if you make a mistake you start all over again. Of course I could break that rule but somehow I never want to. The end of each stroke and how you finish it is very important and it can be so frustrating when you have almost completed a complicated, multi-stroke kanji only to mess up the very last flick! Sadly white-out is not an option!

shodo rakkan-in

As a leaving Tokyo present, my shodo teacher, Waka had my own personal ‘rakkan-in’ made for me. This is essentially my signature on a stamp. Every Japanese person has their own personal hanko (stamp) which they use in place of a signature in everyday life and shodo artists have their own too, but it is called a rakkan-in rather than hanko. They use it to ‘sign’ their paintings. If you look at a piece of shodo you will see, usually on the bottom left and usually in red ink, a square containing some characters. This is an artistic interpretation of their name. This is mine:

shodo rakkan-in

My friend Jane Lawson (cookbook author and fellow Japanophile) asked me to do some shodo for her latest Japanese cookbook and although the thought terrified me, I felt an amazing sense of achievement when I finished those six kanji. I shalln’t tell you how many pieces of paper it took to get the six, but it was worth it!

shodo saying mutsuki

shodo saying kisaragi

genjitsuka shodo

Although I don’t get much chance to practise my shodo at the moment, I recently themed our book club evening to the Japanese book I chose and along with preparing Japanese food I also wrote everyone’s name in Japanese and then got them to try and pick their own name. Every time I take the time to do some shodo I realise how much I love it and think I should do more!

To see more of Jane’s stunning cookbook/seasonal food journey Zenbu Zen here.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Katy, this was really great. See you soon. Pat and Gerry

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