Doing every single cultural activity…at once

Hey, it’s the office!! My desk is the one on the left, although you can’t really see it.

When I said one day that I was interested in learning calligraphy, my coworkers/boss(es) gave me permission to go to the community center today (for what was pretty much the whole day) and learn different Japanese traditional arts. I think this definitely goes on the “every JET’s experience is different” list^^;


Although these pictures I’m holding up look really simple, calligraphy takes a lot more concentration than I realized it would. The one on the left is the good one, and the one on the right is one of my early ones. The right one is thin and just looks like regular writing; the one on the left is thicker and more confident-looking, one of the characteristics of calligraphy. I’ve technically done Japanese calligraphy a little bit before, back in the Sebastopol Culture Camp days, but this was my first “official, living-in-Japan taking-lessons-in-Waki” one.

Feel the concentration!!!

My teacher here stood over my shoulder and held the brush with me to help me get a feel for the strokes. The brush has to be held at a 60° angle, I think it was, and if you hold it more than that she would be like “neteru!” and I’d have to fix it and make it upright again. You need to keep your hand and arm pretty loose. The brush needs to stay at the same angle the whole time, because if you turn the brush it won’t make the right shape/give the lines the right thickness, etc. The left and right sides of the つ and る character need to line up, and the つ kind of needs to lead into the る like the る is continuing it; the circle part of the る shouldn’t go “up,” it should just curve around. The つ needs to be thick, the top part needs to be kinda straight, and the tail end of it needs to come back around a certain way–the tail needs to look “swept” a little. The little circle at the very bottom of the る needs to line up with the center of the る character. Certain parts of the characters need to be thicker, and my つる in general needed to be bolder and more confident–you can’t over-think this!! hahahaha.

My teacher is seriously pro, if you can’t tell. We spent an hour-1.5 hr on つる、but we weren’t able to get to doing my name, so it’ll have to wait till next time. I want to do it some more, though! I think things like the angle of the brush and keeping your hands loose will become natural with more practice, and I won’t have to think as hard as the first time. My teacher told me that you need to make the brush strokes 思い切り、with resolution, and you can’t hesitate or worry about it, because then you get those wimpy thin strokes (my words, haha). My teacher gave advice the whole time, but she also gave frequent encouragement and pointed out the things I did well. I learned a lot!


I also got to participate in a Japanese flower arrangement class! This was shorter, but the main points were: cut the stem, but before you stick it in the middle, make a cut on the stem while the stem is in water; stick the flowers in the center, where there’s a round disk full of spiky things that stick into the stems and hold the flowers in place; spread out the flowers, leave some space, and make it as interesting as you can. My teacher told me that you can come into flower arrangement with a variety of emotions, and let them shape the way you arrange the flowers–ie, you choose the flowers based on whether you are feeling happy or angry or etc, and then the design of the ikebana changes. And I understood, because…I first heard this in the drama Yamada Taro Monogatari. I was like, “Wow!! It was accurate!!” haha.

Yamada Taro Monogatari – Sakurai Sho arranging flowers: (skip to around 10:00 and watch till 10:45-ish)

Oh my gosh, I’m just like Sakurai Sho! For real! hahaha.

I didn’t realize that I’d get to do both flower arrangement AND this next one, but sure enough…!

大正琴 (たいしょうごと)

Do you know what this instrument is?

I’m learning to play 大正琴 (which is like a cross between a piano, a typewriter, and a Japanese harp, and being a stringed instrument, sounds a bit like an acoustic guitar. If you can picture that without looking at the above picture, then you’re pretty amazing lol). It was pretty easy to learn since it was just like a piano made out of typewriter keys, without flats (it did have sharps). The keys have numbers, and then the music has finger placement written on it. That was kind of the hard part, because I didn’t know all the Japanese names for the different fingers. It’s 親、人、中、薬、and 小。I was kind of slow, because they let me borrow a koto and let me practice right there, but the first song we played was the famous sakura one (albeit simpler than that link), and I know that one by ear already so it wasn’t too bad. Thanks for making me practice piano, Mom! I really had fun with that, though–I hope I can go back and practice some more.

My ikebana is now on display in the community center display spot, with a placard denoting it as the flower arrangement of Stephanie the JET English teacher. hahaha. I’m also curious where all these pictures that got taken are going to end up.

Aren’t those brown honeycomb-looking things cool??!! I believe they were really old daikon roots (ie lotus). O_O

I tried to give an overview of all I did, but if you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer them!^^

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