In preparation for my trip to Japan I contemplated what I really wanted to do in my discretionary time, besides walk around, take pictures and eat sushi. Decided that I would like to take a workshop in calligraphy, both because I love calligraphy and because it seemed there would be little language barrier. My wonderful hosts at Nihon Vogue arranged a class at Carre MOJI, a gallery specializing in calligraphy as art for interior design.
Ryoko and Hiroko, two of my Nihon Vogue friends, came with me for the class. I had been teaching all day, it took a while to get the students out the door and everything packed up, then we made a harried rush-hour traverse of Tokyo in a taxi and arrived at the gallery hot and frazzled. Inside, it was cool and calm and we were greeted with a cup of tea, then set up at a table, each with our own brush and sumi ink and a huge stack of paper. Life shifted into a new gear immediately.
Our instructor, Kei Shimizu, had no English so she used the most basic method of pedagogy with me: she put the brush in my hand, then held the handle to guide my strokes. After “we” made a character a couple of times, I got to solo and make it again and again. After a while she would come back and teach a new character.
As we produced page after page after page of writing, the wet sheets were spread out on felt mats to dry and then stacked up. Kei riffled through our piles, picked out a couple that were especially well-done and had us sign them as art.