Hey guys, I thought I'd share some of what I know about the basics of 書道 (shodou) which is the Japanese art of calligraphy (literally - the way of writing). I'm not an expert or have had any true formal training, I've learnt what I know from studying from books and my friends in Japan. I hope it helps you to gain a grasp on things and feel free to ask questions (or if you want me to attempt [main word, attempt] a kanji).

What you'll need for 書道:
  • 筆 - Fude - Brush
  • 書道用墨 - Shodou you sumi - Inkstink for Calligraphy
  • 墨汁 - Bokujuu - Indian Ink (if you don't want to use an inkstick to make your own ink)
  • 紙 - Kami - Paper. You can use any paper, but rice paper is traditional. I suggest only using that when you have become used to writing.
  • 硯 - Suzuri - Inkstone - Used to grind your inkstick with a bit of water to make ink. Also used to contain the ink when in use. Wash as soon as you are finished to prevent residue from sticking!
  • 文鎮 - Bunchin - Paperweight - used to keep your paper in place when writing (optional, but advised to prevent slipping)

Here are my things that I quickly prepared (fude [mine is horse and goat hair], suzuri, shodou you sumi, kami) on a flat surface.

All you have to do, it place a little bit of ink within your suzuri if you are using Indian Ink, or if you are making it yourself, add a tiny bit of water and hold your inkstick perpendicular to the suzuri and grind it gently in a circular motion until the water becomes slightly thicker and black (keep adding water/grinding until it is to a preferred consistency). Remember, patience is a virtue!

When you are ready to begin, make sure there is no stiffness in your brush as this will make it more difficult for it to flow (which is vital to the form). Dip it into the ink until the tip is coated well like so.

Once you have finished that, gently wipe the tip on the main part of the suzuri a few times to remove excess ink (but not too much as to get rid of a lot) like so.

Now you are ready to start writing! Make sure to have a reference if you are doing something for the first time. I still do have a reference as it is helps, despite the fact I do know many kanji! Make sure to put more pressure on the start of your strokes than at the end of them, try to make it glide and flow as much as you can. Don't worry if it comes out a bit messy or not as you hoped, like when you first start writing Japanese characters, it takes time. Practice makes perfect.

Once you get the hang of it, try looking at writing some kanji. I recommend going to jisho.org and looking up the kanji there as they provide stoke order for most kanji which will help you so much when attempting shodou. Here is an attempt I did at a kanji, though it didn't come out as well as I had hoped (as I said, I am still learning! ), can you guess which one it is? I've added some furigana to help for those who can't read kanjii well ^_^

As I said earlier, make sure to wash your suzuri and fude as soon as you have finished. Try not to run your fude under running water as it might damage the hairs of the brush, you can channel the water using your hand or put it into clean still water. Make sure to clean off any water on your inkstick as well as water can cause it to crack and become useless for the future.

If you have any comments, questions on how to write something, or just want me to write something, feel free to post replies and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!