Japanese Lettering – Historic Calligraphy Ideas To Learn

japanese lettering

Learning and writing Japanese is not an easy job, especially if you are a non-native Japanese. In recent times Japanese writing is a mixture of three basic scripts, Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Kanji are Chinese ideographic symbols. Hiragana and Katakana are two phonetic alphabets. Kanji has a few thousand characters where Hiragana and Katakana have 46 characters each. There are some basic rules for using these scripts, you need to know when to use which script, there are many exceptions, and depending on the context or conjunction Kanji scripts have multiple pronunciations which can be worse. For native speakers, it is quite hard to always be right. And for non-natives, it is next to impossible to pronounce them correctly. 

Japanese Lettering 

Though there are Chinese scripts present in the Japanese script it is completely a different language from Chinese as it is to any other language, if you think just by using Chinese writing techniques you can write or learn Japanese then you are wrong. When you talk about Japanese typography then a question always comes to your mind, horizontal or vertical? This question is always there in the mind of Japanese designers, that they need to ask themselves. In Japanese typography, it is very normal to be able to write both vertically and horizontally. They often use this technique when the usage of space is efficient, they often apply this method to newspapers and magazines. 


A person looking towards the camera

Though this combination is a bit chaotic, or even random to foreign eyes. It is correct that some of the other ways these typing styles look chaotic but it is easy to appreciate the visual impact and energy that this typographic system creates. This typographic system reminds you that for effective and appealing informational design there is no specific system, it always does not need to be neat. Though the Japanese are allowed to write this way that does not mean there is no system, they have to do it systematically as a means to indicate different text elements on a page. 


A laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table

In Latin America, there is typography called typographic variants, in some ways Japanese typography is comparable to them. The introduction of horizontal writing in the Japanese language has been employing writing orientation effectively on both print-based media and signage and they complement each other in many ways. 


In the case of screen-based media, there are few exceptions, for the Japanese output the word processing machines are made exclusively, and where for film and TV screens the subtitles play an important role by depending on the background image their horizontal orientation has been chosen over vertical orientation. This system has raised a question: will vertical writing orientation disappear from screen-based media? It is possible for you to improve your calligraphy style if you are learning Japanese lettering as you will have much space to experiment with your creativity. We believe this article gives you an insight into how learning Japanese lettering could be of help. 

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter