Japanese Calligraphy Activity

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Updated on Jul 19, 2013

Learn about the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy. Your child can use this activity to learn about another culture or get closer to his own, and practice perfect penmanship while he’s at it!

What You Need:

  • White poster paper
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Internet access
  • Pencil
  • Scrap paper
  • Black paint and paint brush or black permanent marker

What You Do:

  1. Explain to your child that “kakizome” means “first writing” in Japanese. A New Year’s tradition in Japan, many citizens write calligraphy in celebration of the new year. The practice is supposed to bring good luck for the coming year!
  2. Have your child practice his own kakizome. Have him measure and cut a strip from white poster paper to be a long, vertical, rectangular shape, around 12 inches wide by 28 inches long.
  3. Have your child look at a website of Japanese kakizome examples. These may give him ideas of calligraphy shapes and phrases to write.
  4. Let him know also that some traditional words written for Kakizome include those for good fortune such as “spring” or “happiness.” Let him practice writing it with pencil on scrap paper before writing it in pencil on his poster board.
  5. After he has written calligraphy in pencil on his poster, he can go over the pencil lines with either black paint or black permanent marker.  In traditional Kakizome, ink was rubbed with the first water taken from a well on New Year’s Day—marker ink is fine for modern times!
  6. He can give his calligraphy as a gift to a friend, wishing them happiness, or hang it in his room as a reminder for the New Year to come!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

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