Year after year, a large number of travelers come from overseas to experience Japan, and year after year, we hear the same reaction: “Japanese is so difficult!”
Of course, trying to learn any new language is going to be a huge task, but Japanese has some unique aspects that make it especially hard for overseas visitors.
One significant hurdle is that Japanese utilizes 3 writing systems.
Written Japanese combines Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, which makes reading, and particularly writing, very difficult.
When speaking Japanese, people often use casual vocabulary and are very loose with grammatical rules, making conversational Japanese comparatively easy to pick up. When writing, however, adherence to grammatical rules is crucial, and mistakes in polite speech vs casual speech stick out like a sore thumb. The difficulty level goes through the roof!
As if having 3 different writing systems wasn’t confusing enough, Kanji are notorious for the sheer number of characters they comprise. By the time students are in high school, they will need to know around 2,136 just to read their textbooks.
Kanji were originally brought over to Japan from China, but have evolved in many ways. Some kanji are written differently in Japan than in China, and kanji in Japan have a whole extra set of readings to match Japanese vocabulary.
Kanji readings in Japan are largely divided into two categories: On’yomi (Chinese reading) and Kun’yomi (Japanese reading). Kanji characters may have one or more readings in either category, or even multiple readings within both categories!
So, if you’re excited about learning Japanese, and you’ve read this far… you may be feeling a little discouraged.
But there’s no need to worry!
Shodo JAPAN is here to help!
What many call “complicated” or “difficult” is what gives Japanese its richness of expression and has led “Shodo” to become an internationally respected art form.
Many new learners are immediately entranced by the beauty of Japanese characters and the deep meaning behind each kanji and are instantly hooked.
Shodo JAPAN is here to help you learn by harnessing that sense of wonder.
Turn vocabulary words into beautiful works of art!
Learn to read terms from your favorite manga or anime!
Pick up knowledge like character balance and stroke order naturally!
Ditch traditional study methods and learn while having fun!
Get more out of sightseeing with improved Japanese comprehension!
Study in Japan or online from overseas!
Shodo JAPAN has something for everyone!
No Japanese? No problem! Learn calligraphy regardless of language ability! We can answer all your questions!
Teachers are native Japanese, but have the ability to understand and converse in English.
We have American translators on staff to ensure all Skype sessions, additional materials and video tutorials have complete, clear English translations.
Start learning today with zero Japanese language ability!
However, if you prefer to have a more immersive learning experience, you may request to have your Skype sessions and lessons in Japanese.
We can accommodate any level of Japanese ability.
Learn about Japanese culture!
Calligraphy has its roots in ancient literature and culture, and many may think it doesn’t apply to learning today. Shodo JAPAN, however, has created a curriculum with original lessons that take the basics of calligraphy and apply it to learning modern-day Japanese language and culture. And, we make it fun in the process!
If you visit Japan, the reading comprehension you gain through Shodo JAPAN will give you new insight into the language and signage that surrounds you, adding a new layer of excitement to the journey!
You can also learn to write your favorite words, phrases or lyrics from anime, manga and Japanese pop music!
Calligraphy is a form of meditation that builds focus and patience
Japanese calligraphy, called shodo(書道), is a special art form using special tools, and is growing in popularity for its aesthetic and meditative qualities. Tools include a brush (fude 筆) and ink (sumi 墨), which are used to create patterns upon white calligraphy paper (hanshi 半紙).
The simple combination of black on white belies a vast array of possibilities.
The balance of characters on the paper, the balance of individual character construction, the movement of the brush… there are so many areas that simultaneously demand one’s concentration. This kind of intense focus fostered through calligraphy practice can easily be applied to real life situations in school or business.
Furthermore, that sense of accomplishment you feel once that concentration breaks and you have a completed work of art before you is like nothing else you can experience.
However, you will never be completely satisfied with completing a work only once. The patience to push through failure, learn from it, and try, try again until you make that perfect piece is something else you hone through calligraphy practice.
That focus and patience will take over mind and body, and the worries and stresses of everyday life will disappear as you fall into a meditative state.
That is the power of Japanese calligraphy.
In Buddhism, monks recite sutra to accrue virtue and good karma. The reproduction of written sutra was also originally performed as part of a monk’s training. Recently, written sutra are performed to cleanse the mind, or collected at temples for the fulfilment or hopes and prayers.
Also popular recently are “brush readings,” where aspects of one’s character or fortune are divined from the style of their brush strokes.
In this way, brush writing reflects the mind and soul and can lead to new discoveries about who you are.
A new way to enjoy learning Japanese!
Several of the most difficult aspects of Japanese language learning lie within kanji characters. Kanji stroke order is particularly tough for Western learners. Even if you understand the meaning of a character, it can be confusing to know where to start writing and in what order to make the strokes.
Calligraphy illustrates the importance of stroke order as it is required to reproduce each character with care.
Through the writing of calligraphy, stroke order will become second nature, imprinted on the muscle memory of your arm and hand.
Become a licensed Master in as little as 3 years!
Once you get serious about calligraphy, improving your skill becomes fun!
Along the way, you can take calligraphy aptitude exams to have official recognition of how far you’ve come!
This can be done both inside and outside Japan. Shodo JAPAN will help you sign up with the Bunka Shodo-kai at the Yoyogi Cultural Academy (代々木文化学園 文化書道講座) in order to take the exam and earn a certificate that can be used on your resume!
You can even aim to become a licensed Master calligrapher! In addition to being proof of your abilities, the Master license officially certifies you to teach calligraphy to others.
How great would it be to use your hard-earned skills to teach others!
Overseas Japanese teachers: you could incorporate calligraphy lessons into your curriculum!
If you’re excited about the possibilities of being a licensed Master calligrapher, you could qualify in as little as 3 years!
About the Yoyogi Cultural Academy and Bunka Shodo-kai