Saturday, January 12, 2008

Still on the New Year Theme....

My son has always wondered about this flu thing. He's like, What is it that can make you miss school for an entire week?!

Just a few days ago he said one of his cronies was home with it. The next day, another friend. The school began sending home daily notices about how many children were absent with influenza, little line graphs, the works.
It was only a matter of time. There he is with a 104 temp and a dog guarding him.

So, I will post some pictures taken January second.

The first one has nothing to do with the New Year. We live near two small ports. One has a ship hospital.

For three days all the boats fly happy flags.

Here are some more.

And this is what my new zoom can do.

Okay, off to put fluids in the child.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kakizome/The First Calligraphy of the New Year

Kakizome takes place on the second day of the new year. Individually or in groups, people all across Japan get down on their hands and knees to write the first calligraphy of the year. Wikipedia says something like you're supposed to draw water from the well to add to the ink. However, I've always heard that traditionally people collected dew from some leaf and used that to mix with the ground ink/sumi. Either way, we used bottled ink, as do most kids who aren't in serious lessons.

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.

Here he is getting ready.

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.