Elementary and middle school students begin the year with calligraphy, a practice known as kakizome.
In the art of calligraphy, a writer uses a brush and ink to write beautiful Japanese characters according to a certain style. Writing with a brush has been carried out in Japan for centuries, and it is a very polished art. The Japanese people have long been very fond of writing with brushes, which are an important part of beautiful writing. Characters written with a brush can take all sorts of different forms, and the simple act of writing has become a true art and an important part of the culture.
Students in elementary and middle school still learn calligraphy in their classes. The first step is to learn the fundamentals--how to write characters carefully and correctly. A calligrapher must learn all kinds of things, including how to hold the brush, how to rub a stick of dried ink on an inkstone to prepare it for writing, and just how much ink to put on the brush. When writing Japanese characters, there are rules to be followed on how to write the dots, lines, and other strokes that make up the symbols, and how to bring them all together into beautiful characters. The calligrapher has to be very careful to make sure that each stroke in a character is clear and precise, and that the writing is the right size and placed nicely on the paper.
If you would like to try out the art of calligraphy for yourself, go take a look at the Virtual Japanese Culture section of this Website!