For my birthday, Naoto signed me up for a Japanese calligraphy class. After an online search he found Koomon, located in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi neighborhood. Koomon offers several classes to sample traditional Japanese culture: calligraphy, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, kimono, origami and other traditional skills. The staff and Koomon was warm and welcoming and my lesson was a lot of fun. The lesson started out with Yukiko, our English speaking guide at Koomon, giving us an explanation of the tools and techniques of Japanese calligraphy. Then we watched a master calligrapher demonstrate the different styles of Japanese writing. She showed block style and script and also how a calligrapher can add their own artistic elements to the writing. Her calligraphy was gorgeous as you can tell from above. Yukiko and the calligrapher spoke a lot about the beauties of imperfection in the art of Japanese calligraphy and how special it is that no stroke can ever be recreated exactly. Our calligraphy teacher demonstrated character-by-character the phrase that I chose to write, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” In hindsight, I wish I had just focused on a single word instead of a phrase so I could focus on mastering a character or two instead of six. But I love that proverb, so I’m glad I tried it. We all decided that the script calligraphy was a little bit too challenging, so I focused on the block-style. It was really difficult for me to get super comfortable with the brush because I was focusing on learning the shape of the characters and the proper stroke order all at the same time. Yukiko and the calligraphy teacher watched me and gave me pointers throughout my practice. One major thing I learned is to really load up the brush with ink. I tend to only put ink on the tip of the brush, but to make beautiful characters, you need to use the entire brush to get variety in your strokes. Because Naoto was with me (and maybe because he had trouble translating some script calligraphy for me when asked) the Koomon ladies encouraged Naoto to practice calligraphy too. I requested the word “sakura” because we were there in the spring.I practiced my phrase and specific challenging characters several times and when I was comfortable, I got to work on my “final project” in the tatami room. It felt very special to wear the little apron and write with the progressional calligraphy tools. When I was finished, all I could see was the “mistakes” and imperfections in my writing, but the calligraphy teacher pointed out that those are what make the calligraphy special. Along the left side of the proverb is my name and if you look closely, there are three red seals (two on the lower left and one on the top right). There were several seals to choose from, each representing a Japanese phrase. I chose ones that said “May your joys be as deep as the ocean and your happiness as high as the mountain.” and “Fortune comes in a merry gate.” and “A carefree life ensures longevity.” Isn’t Naoto’s “sakura” calligraphy wonderful?Thank you, Naoto, for my excellent birthday gift and thank you to Koomon for a wonderful morning of calligraphy! Taking the class has made me want to practice more so I can paint the characters with reckless abandon!