Out with the old and in with the new. There are many celebrations going during the New Year’s holiday. Besides that, the beginning of the year is a perfect time to decide what we want to accomplish for that year. Spend more time with your family? Learn a foreign language? Travel more? Advance in your career? Run a marathon?
Whatever it may be, there is proven evidence that if you write down your resolution on a piece of paper you’re more likely to achieve that goal. I guess Japanese people have known this phenomenon for a long time since they have a special custom of writing their New Year’s resolution with a calligraphy brush on the 2nd of January. This tradition is known as Kakizome: the first writing of a year.
What is the importance of kakizome: then and now
In the distant past, Kakizome used to be practiced only among imperial household members. But thanks to temple schools and literary education, this tradition became popular among common people during the Edo period. Nowadays, Kakizome is a favored New Year activity among the young and old alike. In fact, it is a exciting activity that all can enjoy at the beginning of the year!
There is a phrase often used in the world of Japanese calligraphy: Sho Ha Hito Nari (calligraphy reveals personality). This notion is quite common among Japanese people and contributes to a strong emphasis on having beautiful handwriting.
Calligraphy is a mandatory subject in elementary school, where Japanese kids learn not only how to write letters beautifully, but also the correct writing posture and ways to hold and maintain brushes properly. Quite often, teachers assign kids to do Kakizome over the New Year holiday.
The practice of calligraphy is not in vain since there are many opportunities to show your handwriting skills. For example, many Japanese companies still require handwritten resumes from job applicants. Beautiful handwritten resumes almost always give a good impression, so job-hunters put great care it. Of course, potential employers then scrutinize those same documents with equal zeal.
Here are some popular auspicious words and kakizome phrases you can try!
The spirituality of kakizome
Kakizome was, and still is, a special ritual where people clear their mind and focus on expressing their determination using beautiful lettering. To prepare for Kakizome, one has to get a fresh water, pour it into a square basin, grind charcoal gently until its fresh scent wafts into the air. After preparation, he or she dips the tip of the calligraphy brush into a pool of fresh ink then makes a steady stroke. The writer consciously considers every line, dot, stroke and stop, and the ritual becomes a form of meditation.
Even if you don’t own a calligraphy brush? Don’t worry! That’s because are affordable calligraphy pens available at any stationary store in Japan. Truly, anyone can join along and set themselves up for success by participating in kakizome!
When you are finish your Kakizome, hang it on the wall. The bold strokes on a piece of pristine white paper might give you the determination and will to accomplish your New Year’s resolution. Or perhaps it’s just a beautiful piece of art to look at. Either way, it is a great piece of Japanese culture to keep with you.
A New Year marks a new beginning. I hope it brings you lots of joy and success.