Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

Calligraphy gets a brush-up

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Apart from writing New Year’s cards once a year, most adult Japanese rely on computers to help them write out complex Chinese characters (kanji), meaning many forget how to write them by hand. This has had a detrimental effect on the traditional craft of shodo (calligraphy), which, until recently, was steadily losing popularity among Japanese. But artists who’ve been giving shodo a fashionable spin and popular dramas about the craft have led to a quiet revival.

Suitou Nakatsuka, for instance, is a self-styled “calligraphy space designer.” In addition to practicing traditional calligraphy, she creates modern calligraphy artworks live at fashionable parties, has decorated a munny doll, digital weather reports and her own collection of Arita-ware pottery. Her work has appeared on TV and in various fashion magazines like Can Can. In December last year she released a calligraphy work book for beginners who might want to take up the craft.

Live calligraphy painting is also practiced by artist Kotaro Hachinohe, who uses a camera inside his brush during performances. This performance in Sapporo last year (above) shows him creating an artwork to a jazz soundtrack. He doesn’t limit himself to using traditional washi paper but has used walls and even the interior of a tent as a canvas.

Calligraphy as performance art is an idea that reverberated in the 2010 movie “Shodo Girls!!” in which a high school calligraphy club shakes things up at the national Koshien competition. An NHK TV drama series titled “Tomehane Suzuru High School Shodo Club,” an adaptation of a popular manga of the same name, also came out last year and is thought to have inspired many young Japanese to take up the craft.

In a recent interview on J-Cast TV, Fumiko Ota, the editor of shodo magazine “Sumi” (ink), said that people were attracted to shodo because it involved taking time to do something carefully, taking time out for themselves. The magazine is now celebrating its 35th year with a special Jan./Feb. edition aimed at riding the wave of the shodo trend. The edition features tips for beginners as well as a special DVD featuring performances from the country’s top calligraphy artists.

Creative spirits inhabit daruma range

Friday, March 12th, 2010

yokai daruma

Funky Daruma Yokai toys from Idea International

Toy collectors are bound to flip over this cute new “Daruma Yokai” series out this month from Idea International. Daruma are traditional Japanese dolls, usually painted red and sold at temples for good luck. According to custom, people paint in one eye of the daruma when they set a goal, and then paint the other after they achieve it. These particular daruma are based on fanciful monster characters from the classic anime “Ge Ge no Kitaro.” The yokai concept was brought up to date by the team at Design Office Nendo, the innovative company behind the recent controversial but achingly cool MD.net mental health clinic in Asakusa. The initial batch of eight characters will include “nedama no oyaji” (eyeball father), “nezumi otoko” (rat man) and “nurikabe” (plaster wall), but there are plans to extend the series if it proves popular.”

A portion of the profits made from the Daruma Yokai series will go to “Made in Japan” a nonprofit organization that supports local craftsmen and businesses in Japan. The organization was founded in 1900 in Gifu Prefecture and helps businesses by holding seminars and workshops for local craftsmen as well as giving financial aid. Their aim is to keep the traditional crafts alive in Japan that might otherwise die out. Dolls cost ¥2,000 but at least you get that warm, fuzzy feeling of  helping keep Japan’s artisan heritage alive.

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