Q Why is calligraphy taught in schools using a brush when people no longer write with brushes anymore?

A The Japanese rarely write with a brush nowadays except when addressing congratulatory envelopes, condolence envelopes and listing their name to the register at wedding receptions. And now that more people have started using felt pens, very seldom does the opportunity arise to use a brush in everyday life.

From long ago, calligraphy was an essential part of the cultural training of the Japanese. As the term shodo (calligraphy) indicates, it is not merely the skill and technique of writing characters that are emphasized, but an emphasis on writing characters as a way to provide mental and moral training for the mind.

When calligraphy is first learned, the strokes are written carefully and deliberately one stroke at a time. There are even different ways of making a straight line depending on the character.

Writing with a brush requires knowing the proper stroke order, and calligraphy is an indispensable means of acquiring the basics of writing Kanji and hiragana (a cursive form of writing commonly used for writing native words). This is why calligraphy is one of the subjects taught in elementary and junior high schools.

One's individuality shows by how the brush is used and by the light and dark shadings of the India ink seen in the finished work. Calligraphy is appreciated as a form of art.