しょどう ―だう 1 【書道】
Shodo artists spread the word
Calligraphy, or shodo, has been gaining popularity in recent years, thanks in large part to a trend of introducing its figurative beauty through design, fashion, advertising or even food packaging. To highlight the modern application of this traditional, yet thoroughly vital, form of Japanese culture, eight calligraphers will come together in Tokyo to communicate through their art.
"I love expressing the meanings of characters and words through calligraphy in all its various forms. I'm also interested in working on calligraphy with artists in different sectors. That's why I'll attend the event, to share the beauty of shodo through demonstration, exhibition and discussion. I also hope to share the fun of calligraphy with visitors to the event," calligraphy artist Shishu said.
Shishu is one of eight calligraphy artists who will demonstrate their work in Kaku: Omoi Fude ni Nosete beginning Friday at the main square of Yebisu Garden Place in Ebisu, Tokyo.
On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays from this Saturday, the artists will take turns creating works using a gigantic brush and ink on tatami-mat sized hanshi white writing paper. The event will also feature live music, with the programs changing daily. Koto, saxophone and shakuhachi bamboo flute players will be among the musicians who will accompany the active ink demonstrations.
Visitors can also exchange views with calligraphy artists during their talks or try their own hand in several workshops under the direction of the artists. There will also be lectures on methods of shakyo, or the transcription of Buddhist scriptures or sacred texts.
"We organized the event in line with our annual theme at the Yebisu Garden Place this year: Sharing the joy of life," said Yasuyuki Matsuoka, a public relations official for the event. "We believe calligraphy, the most basic form of written communication in Japan, helps us to share different values."
Matsuoka added that as shodo also seems to have been gaining worldwide recognition, the organizers hope many non-Japanese visitors will also come to see the event.
ふく 2 【福】
On Saturday, Shishu will hold a live calligraphy performance accompanied by a koto player. "I haven't decided on what I will write, but I may write the Chinese letter for 'fuku' [happiness] as the character is part of how my real name is written," said Shishu, who has been providing her work for movie and fashion show posters, as well as food packaging.
"The important thing is that people will watch me perform, because that will provide me with inspiration."
Besides her calligraphy, Shishu will mark the opening of the event Friday by giving a demonstration with floral artist Shogo Kariyazaki, who is known for his bold, luxurious arrangements.
The koto (箏 or 琴)
On Sunday, Soryu Takeda, another young calligrapher breathing new life into the world of shodo, will take the stage. Takeda, who has given calligraphy performances in major cities such as Moscow and Brussels, and has collaborated with musicians, will be accompanied by a 25-string koto.
Chosho Yabe, who displays her calligraphy around the world, will appear Sept. 30. She is known for using her art as a means of expressing herself, and has also designed merchandise and gifts based on her calligraphy.
Among the four other calligraphy artists who will give performances are Michiko Hamasaki, who is uses her calligraphy to stimulate a cross-cultural exchange, and Sofu Honda, who began her calligraphy career at the age of 2 and caused a stir last year when she gave a shodo performance on a three-meter-long banana leaf in California. Hamasaki and Honda will perform with koto and saxophone players, respectively.
Biho Yamauchi, a government employee-turned calligrapher, also is among the invited artists. Her memorable works include a collaboration with wedding dress designer Yumi Katsura in a New York bridal show. Her calligraphy presentation, too, will be accompanied by a koto performance.
Honda will hold a calligraphy workshop for five days during the event, while Yamauchi will lecture on shakyo on Oct. 6.
"Calligraphy is not about writing beautiful characters, but instead putting to paper words or characters that have presence and grace. Otherwise they're meaningless," said calligrapher Sekijo Kaneda, who will give his performance on Oct. 8 to music played on the shakuhachi.
"They don't have to be kanji characters--they can be words written in hiragana or even English," he stressed.
"You can't change the letters themselves, so what counts in calligraphy is the individuality you express and the quality of the strokes."
Kaneda is another calligraphy artist who has worked in many fields. One of his more recent endeavors saw him create the title graphics for Tsubaki Sanjuro, a remake of the 1962 Akira Kurosawa film, which will be released in December.
He also is known for the strong, impressive brush work he contributed to the title sequence of the 1990 film Ten to Chi to (Heaven and Earth).
"I'm always exploring my possibilities as someone who does more than calligraphy," said Kaneda, whose work also has appeared on perfume bottles and at kimono fashion shows.
He added: "Doing calligraphy can be compared to an attack. It's not about what you write on a piece of blank paper but how you conquer that piece of paper.
"The lines form the basis of calligraphy just like bones are the framework for the human body. So I use my full weight even when I work on small paper," Kaneda said.
On Oct. 6-7, in an independent project separate from the calligraphy performances, Shishu will hold Love Letter Project '07.
Shishu will discuss with Tsugaru-jamisen player Hiromitsu Agatsuma, one of the most popular young shamisen players, the theme of love letters. The calligrapher and the musician also are planning a performance of shodo and shamisen.
"We live in an affluent society, but we somehow have forgotten how to give or receive love," Shishu said. "So I want the project to remind people of the meaning of love."
She will also hold a workshop on both days inviting up to 40 participants at a time to ink words, characters or even pictures on the theme of love letters. Some participants' works will be exhibited during the event together with Shishu's own works.
Among her exhibits will be black reinforced steel objets d'art made from her calligraphy.
"I created these objets by making my calligraphy three-dimensional, with it most impressive when light is directed on it, creating a shadow," Shishu said. "Making such an objet requires special attention especially when expressing minute, thin sections. But a collaboration with other artists or artisans specialized in special techniques allowed me to create something new."
Such artists--including film director Naomi Kawase, who won the Grand Prix at the 60th Cannes Film Festival in summer with Mogari no Mori (The Mourning Forest) and singer Mayo Shono--will also contribute their work to the exhibition.
Shishu said her ultimate goal is to do calligraphy for Hollywood film titles. "In addition to English, I want to try calligraphy in other languages.
"I imagine it will help spread more than the culture of Japan around the world. I want my calligraphy to be enjoyed by people from different cultures and backgrounds."
Kaku: Omoi Fude ni Nosete
Through Oct. 8. Live performance by eight calligraphers, Sept. 22-Oct. 8, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. (1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. on Sept. 22); Calligraphy experience by Sofu Honda, Sept. 23-24, 30, Oct. 7-8, 3 p.m.-5 p.m.; Calligraphy workshop by Honda, Sept. 29, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; Shakyo workshop by Biho Yamauchi, Oct. 6, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; "Love Letter" exhibition, Oct. 6-7, 11 a.m.-6 p.m; "Love Letter" talks and performance, Oct. 6-7, 7 p.m.-8 p.m.; "Love Letter" workshop, Oct. 6, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.; Oct. 7, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Yebisu Garden Place, a seven-minute walk from Ebisu Station on JR and subway lines.
Admission free except for Honda's and Yamauchi's workshops, which are 1,000 yen each; talks and performances 2,200 yen.