Japan Orbit: Information about Japanese Culture, Japanese History, and Travel in Japan Japan Orbit: Information about Japanese Culture, Japanese History, and Travel in Japan
Main TravelCultureLiving InformationLinksPicturesSite MapContact


Hutong School

Japanese Calligraphy

The traditional Japanese way of writing is known as Shodo. It belongs to the most valued and appreciated arts in Japan. It is still cultivated by nobles, priests and samurai followers and is studied by Japanese school children.

The history of Japanese calligraphy

The art of  writing characters was imported to Japan from China and Korea during the 7th century A.D. Shodo was introduced to the Japanese Emperor by Buddhists, who converted him into their religion. In that time, Japanese calligraphy was mostly produced by priests and monks, who popularized Chinese styles of Shodo. During the Heian Period (8th - 12th century) a distinctive Japanese style of writing was developed. Since that moment, this Wayo style, as it is called, became more and more popular and started to replace the older Shodo.

In Chinese style, there are three important types evolved before the end of the fourth century:

  • tensho (seal script),
  • reisho (scribe's script),
  • kaisho (block script, favored in media because of its clarity ),
  • gyosho (semi-cursive script, often used in informal conference),
  • sosho (cursive script, used to achieve graceful effect ).

Additionally to this, Japanese style developed a kana script during the 8th century, which falls into three subcategories:

  • manyogana (chinese characters used phonetically to represent the syllables of Japanese),
  • hiragana (beautiful cursive script which is the unique calligraphic style of Japan),
  • katakana (more angular script mainly used for writing loan words and the names of persons and geographical places).  

The Art of Japanese calligraphy

There are some basic rules that Japanese painters must follow to achieve the best results in calligraphy. The most important rules belong to the following:
natural balance between the characters and the composition
strong and clear straight lines
delicate and mobile curved lines
variance in thickness and thinness
always appropriate amount of ink on the brush
always appropriate size of characters
rhythm in the whole work

The most sophisticated and valued way of writing is traditional Japanese poetry, which falls into three main forms:

  • Renga- The idea behind this technique is that one poet writes a section and the next poet adds the next section, so that two poets enjoy creating a poem at the same time.
  • Tanga- This is thee oldest type of poetry.  It is written to express one's feelings in more depth.
  • Haiku- This is the most well known and most popular technique.  It is very short in length, consists of 17 syllables, and describes the author's feelings.


Websites about other countries:

Korea China Korea English versions

Korea China German versions


Hutong School