Show Dawn


Shodan SakuhinHere it is! This is a photo of my work which achieved shodan (初段) level, which is kind of like a black belt. This is within the Japanese Calligraphy Society (日本習字・Nihon Shuuji). Other societies exist, but they usually use a very similar ranking system.

Achieving this rank qualifies me to be an Elementary Level Teacher (初等師範・shotou shihan), which means I can teach kindergarten and elementary school age students. I ordered my official license (初等師範免許状) and a certificate (初段認定証) last week. They should arrive within the next few weeks. My goal is to be a fully qualified teacher. That is still far off. I heard that also requires studying some history and possibly taking a test.

This work is called a kakizome (書き初め), or first work of the year. It is traditional to create a special work for the beginning of the year. Usually it says something about achieving greatness in the new year or something calling for the beauty of Spring to come quickly. We practice this in December using special paper called gasenshi (画仙紙) which, at almost 28x85cm, is much larger than the normal monthly works. The standard works are written on hanshi (半紙) which vary in size, but our official size is almost 26x36cm. For the Tanabata holiday in July we also write a special work on gasenshi.

The main text is ten characters long, divided into two columns. It is written 春麗山河壮風清草木栄 and reads haru urarakani sanga sakan ni kaze kiyoku soumoku sakayu (春麗らかに山河壮に風清く草木栄ゆ). The meaning is haru ha utsukushiku yama ya kawa ha rippa ni kaze ha suzushikute soumoku ha shigeri sakaeru (春は美しく山や川は立派に、風は涼しくて草木は茂り栄える), or “Spring is the splendid mountains and rivers and such, with the cool wind in the luxurious vegetation.” As expected this model is praising the Spring which will (hopefully) come quickly.

In the upper right corner you can find a tag which reads ginshou (銀賞), which I will call ‘silver medal’, even though we don’t actually receive a medal. There are four levels of medals: dou (銅), gin (銀), kin (金), and kampou (観峰). The first three are copper, silver, and gold; the last one is named after the head instructor.

The red writing in the lower left is the grading marks. The larger characters say shodan goukaku (初段合格), which means “shodan level successfully achieved”. The smaller text says, shotou shihan menkyojou shinsei shikakusha (初等師範免許状申請資格者) – “Person qualified for application for elementary level teacher’s license.” The oval stamp has the date (Jan 9, 2008) and indicates that this is all official.

The ten large characters are the work and the two columns of small characters are my school chapter, my rank at the time of submission, and my signature. Nishifurukawa shibu (西古河支部) is the chapter name. Furukawa is the old name for Shinmachi, and nishi merely indicates west. My chapter is in the west part of Shinmachi. My rank when I wrote this was jun shodan (準初段) which I translated as pre-beginning level in a previous post, but it really indicates a half step before becoming a black belt. My name is written as Moriya Eirikku (守屋衛利句).

Because of weekend work activities, an illness, and laziness, I only practiced writing this work one time. Normally we practice four times before submitting a clean copy for grading. I was very surprised to advance a rank with this half-hearted work. Particularly disappointing were the balance of the right column and the writing of the last character in the right column. Not to be too critical of my work, I was proud of my mountain, tree, and ‘beauty’ (山・木・and 麗), which turned out pretty well.

Receiving this grade is helping me find the energy to redouble my efforts. Master level is still several steps away and I need to develop consistency in my writing through repeated practice. I hope to have more positive reports like this in the future. I could ramble on with details about calligraphy, but I’ll cut myself off here to avoid boring every reader to death. (Oh, sorry about the parallax in the photo; I may re-shoot that.)


6 Responses to “Show Dawn”

  1. Dorothy W. Says:

    Hey — congratulations! I am impressed — your work looks beautiful!

  2. fightingwindmills Says:

    Awesome work, Bikkuri! Congratulations on your achievement!

  3. kevenker Says:

    It looks really nice! That’s a major accomplishment! Congratulations on your advancement!

  4. Sylvia Says:

    Beautiful! Congratulations!

  5. Letter, Certificate, and License « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] clean copy work for evaluation sometime after the 29th (last Saturday of the month). As seen on my Kakizome (書初め) work, the society advanced my to shodan officially on January 9th. We believe the […]

  6. A Real Piece of Work « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] this fun work to test out “real paper”, or this sample from a gasenshi size work, or this gasenshi size work when I earned my Elementary teaching […]

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