So, every school child must write dozens of these kakizomes and submit their best work to their teacher after the holidays. All of these are then sent to local competitions and judged. Not only school kids but teens, adults, older adults, everyone loves their First Calligraphy of the Year!
The characters written are auspicious phrases or something relating to the New Year. Stuff like Long Life, New Year, Hope. J's phrase (to be written by all sixth graders) was the Seven Herbs of Spring.
Since we don't have tatami mat in our house, and I don't want to think of what would happen when a container of ink is knocked over onto my carpet, J usually writes on the kitchen table. It's a little awkward but he prefers it to sitting on his knees for an hour or so.
On the left is the characters he's supposed to write, haru no nana kusa. All the children recieve an example to try and copy as best as possible. On the right, you can see the long white sheet held down by a metal paper weight and then the ink on the bottom right.
Dipping the brush in ink.
And the first attempt, the first stroke.
I studied calligraphy, shuji/shodo, for several years and I can attest it is a bazillion times more difficult that it looks. We're talking stroke order, balance, where to apply pressure and where to let up, what strokes to hook, stop, or trail off, you don't only look at the black characters but the white space too.
I don't know who these people are below, but this is a really good video showing how kakizome is supposed to be done. And look at how many attempts they made! All of them first rate as far as I'm concerned.