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Young Shodo Artists Breaking New Ground (March 23, 2007)

(HoriPro Inc.)

Shodo, or calligraphy with a brush and black ink, is a traditional Japanese art. Lacking as it does in color, shodo has tended to be viewed as a gentle pastime mostly for older people. But recent years have seen the emergence of a new generation of calligraphers who push the boundaries of tradition, and they are spearheading a boom in shodo.

Renewing an Ancient Art
Shodo is a familiar art for the average Japanese, as the basics of brush writing are taught in elementary school. It was also once common for children to take calligraphy lessons. But nowadays the number of calligraphy classes has fallen as the overall population of children declines; the percentage of children who regularly take calligraphy lessons has fallen as well. For adults, too, there are few opportunities to write with the brush in the age of computers and mobile phones, and interest in shodo was thought to be diminishing.

Kunishige Tomomi (HoriPro Inc.)

In the face of this trend, however, young calligraphers in their twenties and thirties are breathing new life into the world of shodo with unconventional forms. Shodo expresses an infinite variety of feelings, such as austerity and tenderness, through differences in the brushstrokes. This comes as a refreshing change to people today, who are accustomed to printed writing, and shodo is being reevaluated as a means of self-expression as well as an art form.

Exploring New Possibilities
One of the most watched young calligraphers is Takeda Soun, who is known for his "performance shodo." Takeda performs calligraphy on stage to live music, such as piano, saxophone, and Japanese drums. He has given performances in Moscow, Brussels, and other foreign cities and continues to engage in his artistic activities with an eye on the wider world.

Kunishige Tomomi, meanwhile, has invented what she calls ei kanji, literally meaning "English kanji." As their name suggests, these original characters are a union of the English alphabet and kanji. For instance, what appears on first glance to be the kanji character for "sea" or for "love" is actually composed of parts that resemble the letters of the corresponding English word. Kunishige is gradually gaining international recognition, having presented exhibitions both in Japan and overseas.

More young calligraphers have followed, including Yabe Chosho, a former office worker who performed in Spain in 2006. These artists are coming up with a variety of unique works and are gradually expanding their spheres of activity.

Public interest in shodo is rising with the success of these calligraphers. A television program was recently aired focusing on the challenge of high school girls entering a shodo contest, and the number of people attending shodo schools to revisit the art they learned in their childhood days is on the rise. Slowly but surely, the shodo boom is spreading.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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