Craft a Japanese Scroll Activity

3.8 based on 12 ratings
Updated on Sep 16, 2011

With roots in Chinese calligraphy dating back thousands of years, Japanese calligraphy is truly an ancient art. Unlike English, Japanese writing is a complex system made up of several components, including kanji (Chinese characters that stand for whole words), hiragana, and katakana. Japanese is written vertically from right to left.

Jump into Japanese culture with your child by making your own Japanese-style calligraphy scroll. She'll try her hand at painting kanji characters on paper just like Japanese calligraphers and Zen masters of old! A great way to spark her interest in world cultures and art forms, this craft is sure to be a hit.

What You Need:

  • Cardboard toilet paper roll
  • 1 9" x 12" sheet of white drawing paper, cut to a 4" x 12" rectangle
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Paintbrush
  • Watered-down black tempera paint
  • Small dish
  • Red string

What You Do:

  1. Take a look at Japanese calligraphy online with your child. Print out some examples of characters for her to refer to while she creates her scroll. This is a great opportunity to talk about how written languages look different all around the world!
  2. Before starting on the scroll, encourage her to practice writing some words in English and then writing them in Japanese characters.
  3. To make the paper part of the scroll, ask her to tape one end of the drawing paper to the toilet paper tube.
  4. Now it's time for calligraphy! Invite her to practice Japanese calligraphy on the scroll by dipping a paintbrush into the diluted black tempera paint and drawing characters on the paper starting at the top of the scroll and working to the bottom.
  5. Set the scroll aside to dry.
  6. Once the paint is dry, encourage her to write what the Japanese characters mean in English at the bottom of the scroll.
  7. To finish the scroll, have her thread the red string through the toilet paper tube and tie a knot. Hang it in a special place for all to see!

Did You Know?

Calligraphy is an elementary school subject for children in Japan, and is also offered in high school alongside music and painting as an art elective.

Sarah Lipoff has a K-12 Art Education degree and enjoys working with kids of all ages.

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