The History Of The Japanese Hiragana Calligraphy

japanese hiragana calligraphy

In modern times, this art form continues to be a part of Japanese culture. Here are a few things about Japanese hiragana calligraphy.

Traditionally, traditional Japanese calligraphy consists of only 2 parts: Traditional and Modern. The traditional part usually uses a sharp, thin taper stroke for more intricate designs. On the other hand, the modern version uses a more rounded taper stroke. Other characteristic features of Japanese calligraphy include the use of kana (kanji) and katakana (hi).

The Bamboo Fujiwara

Historically, the most commonly used brush in Japanese calligraphy is the bamboo Fujiwara (brush). The Fujiwara can either be made of wood or a combination of wood and metal. The flat style of a bamboo Fujiwara is referred to as a yogi, while the rounded yogi style is referred to as shiwa. The most commonly used metal for a Fujiwara brush is gold.

The brushes that were used in the Fujiwara had a particular direction with which they were used to write. They had three different directions to which to write, referred to as san, sen, and buki. In addition to the Fujiwara there were also karat, hojiro, and chiku-naide. These terms are also referred to as the Chuzan-Kaerai and San-Kaerai. The term Chuzan-Kaerai refers to the styles developed by individual collectors, while the term hojiro means sweep (HO) and San-Kaerai means straight (SAN).

A Solid Block Of Japanese Calligraphy

In order to create a solid block of Japanese calligraphy, the artist would usually include a mania (handwriting mirror) in the design. The artist would use the mania to apply a consistent border to all parts of the Fujiwara, usually all blocks of text. Occasionally, especially during the Kamakura period (around tenth to fifteenth century), a small kaniya was added to the end of a Fujiwara to make it look like the artist was using a brush while creating the characters for the calligraphy. The art of combining the stroke of a brush and the outline of a character is called minutia. The artist would then erase the minute and apply a contrasting stroke to the next block of text.

The main characteristic of the Japanese style of calligraphy, which can still be seen in old documents from the same period, is the presence of small forms known as makiwara. The makiwara is typically a two-lined or two-block shape, just as the Fujiwara, but instead of using the brush, it uses the finger. The makiwara is difficult to read if you do not have a guide to point out the lines and so most beginners begin with the Fujiwara and later move on to the Japanese style calligraphy. In modern times, some calligraphers who are not familiar with this style feel that it is simply a continuation of the basic brush calligraphic practices.

Based On Strokes Of The Hands

Of course, there is no denying that the concepts of Japanese calligraphy are closely related to those of Chinese calligraphy – both are based on strokes of the hands. However, this is where the similarities end. To write in Chinese, one has to make sure that their hands are straight and that they do not leave spaces between words or between characters. 

This demands that the distance be consistent all throughout the writing process. It is also important that the same amount of space be maintained between characters in the Japanese style of calligraphy and the Chinese system. This is done by observing that the characters are written horizontally within lines that have been vertically drawn.


As it appears, Japanese calligraphy bears more resemblance to Chinese calligraphy than to any other styles. The most commonly seen characteristics are the shapes of some letters such as a, which are very unique and give the Japanese calligraphy its unique identity. However, there are also certain characteristics of calligraphies that are shared with other parts of Asia and the Chinese Empire. For example, the kana script, which is mainly used for Buddhist texts, has vertical strokes that do not vary between individual strokes. Another similarity is that most words written in the kana script are written from right to left in vertical positions.

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