Calligraphy (書道, shodō: "the way of writing") is the art of writing beautifully. Most children learn calligraphy in elementary school. It is a popular hobby among adults, too.
A calligraphy set consists of:
- Shitajiki: Black, soft mat. It provides a comfortable, soft surface.
- Bunchin: Metal stick to weight down the paper during writing.
- Hanshi: Special, thin calligraphy paper.
- Fude: Brush. There is a larger brush for writing the main characters and a smaller one for writing the artist's name. The small brush, however, can be used for the characters, too.
- Suzuri: Heavy black container for the ink.
- Sumi: Solid black material that must be rubbed in water in the suzuri to produce the black ink which is then used for writing. Of course, "instant ink" in bottles is also available.
Unlike the strokes of Roman letters, the strokes of Japanese characters have to be drawn in the correct order, not arbitrarily. When you learn Chinese characters, you draw one stroke after the other. This is called the square (kaisho) style of writing kanji.
This style of writing kanji, however, is rarely used in everyday life. Instead, there are two faster styles of writing, in which the kanji become a little bit less legible, just like when writing Roman letters in a fast way. These two styles are called semi cursive (gyosho) and cursive (sosho).