Bringing Words to Life


Kolkata: Japanese calligraphy is also known as shodo. Shodo is the art of writing Japanese characters through the use of paint brush strokes in order to express beauty and spirituality. Shodo relies on syllabaries, a set of symbols where each written symbol represents a a spoken syllable. Communication through Shodo is not just dependent on brush strokes, however. The way in which the calligrapher controls her breathing, body, and mood will vary the rendition of the same character. This is why the creative aspects may vary, while the meaning of the characters remains the same.

Hiroko Nagahama, is a teacher of Calligraphy at the Tokyo Kasei University Girls Senior High School and has years of experience in the field. She has visited India more than 30 times. In collaboration with Consulate General of Japan in Kolkata and in association with Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, the Nihongo Kaiwa Kyookai Society (NKKS) organized a Calligraphy Demonstration and Workshop which portray the fine artistic technique of writing in Japanese language using traditional brush, ink and other materials. Abhijit Ganguly speaks to Hiroko.

Has there been anyone who have inspired you?

There is no one person who has inspired me.I loved drawing. I loved writing. I was told that Japanese people dont have very good handwriting. That is what made me take up the challenge and move forward.
Do you have any favourite piece of work??

Not at this time. I have done many work, but I have not achieved what i want to!. I love India. I love the beauty of India!. I want to feel it and express it through my work.
What is unique about Japanese calligraphy?

Japanese calligraphy attempts to bring words to life, and endow them with character. Styles are highly individualistic, differing from person to person.The characters are similar as kanji originated from
China, however culturally we are very different so each character may carry different significance for the two cultures.

What kind of skills and traits should a student possess to become a successful calligrapher?

One must have an eye for it. One should see a picture and draw it. One should develop the skill to understand what is the difference between two pictures

Is computer designing a threat to calligraphy?

Calligraphy cant be done by computer. I believe what one is writing can be done by that person only. It cannot be replicated. It is not possible for a machine to copy it or surpass calligraphy. Personal touch is there. Once a person makes a piece of work the next one will not be the same.

What are the career opportunities for a student of calligraphy?

Calligraphers can do wonders with their skills. It is a very expressive profession that offers a chance to unleash your artistic potential

Your word of advice for aspiring calligraphy students?

It i s not just about writing. You learn to see the beauty in an object and express it through your work.