Writing is an art. A calligrapher uses a pen and ink to create art that leaves you mesmerized. We see them all the time in wedding invitations, logo design, graphic design, props, film and television. Calligraphy has always fascinated me and many a times I have watched calligraphers work to create visual art that is just fascinating.

Recently in collaboration with Consulate General of Japan in Kolkata and Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Golpark, the Nihongo Kaiwa Kyookai Society (NKKS) organized a Calligraphy Workshop which to portray the fine artistic technique of writing in Japanese language using traditional brush, ink and other materials.

There were around 70 students, mainly from the Japanese language learning institutes. The workshop was conducted by Ms. Hiroko Nagahama. She is a Former Calligraphy Teacher at the Tokyo Kasei University Girls Senior High School.

What follows is a conversation with Ms Hiroko Nagahama regarding the calligraphy workshop which you might just find as interesting as I did.

How much did you enjoy the workshop?

Fortunately I have been given the opportunities to have Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy) workshops annually in Kolkata in the past several years. The workshop is so popular that it always has a waiting list. I am very happy to see that many people here are interested in Shodo.

Why is Calligraphy important in our modern times?

Though handwriting occasions are decreasing in this digital era, it is still important to input one’s heart in communications by handwriting.

Shodo is a form of art. It is not just about writing characters, but a creative activity in which you bring your image of the character or sentence into shape. You can also strengthen your concentration ability by practicing Shodo. At the basic practice of Shodo, it is important to calm yourself by taking a slow breath while maintaining the proper posture and practice the art of concentration, which has a lot in common with “Zen”.

How can one learn more even after the workshop?

In Shodo, special brush, ink and paper are used. If there are not available, you can practice with a thick brush for watercolor and black poster color.

Is there an age limit to learning?

No, there is no age limit. However, the use of black ink for small children requires attention because the ink cannot be washed off once stained on clothes.

Is there a difference in style and technique of Calligraphy globally?

As there are many different languages and characters in the world, various implements, styles and techniques of calligraphy have been developed in the most suitable manner for each character. The styles of Shodo range widely from the basics, where the strokes in the characters are precisely drawn in a printed manner, to freer artistic ones, where you put your heart in the characters in a creative manner.

What is very special about Japanese Calligraphy?

There are three types of characters in written Japanese. One is “Kanji” (Chinese characters), and the other two are “Hiragana” and “Katakana” which are simplified forms of “Kanji” and native to Japan. Using these different characters, and sometimes mixing with characters from different languages, Shodo has great possibilities as a Creative Art.