Letter, Certificate, and License


I need to read back through my blog for references like: “I promise to write about this soon.” A few notes like that come to mind, so I’m sure there are several. Today, I am finally posting the images of my Japanese calligraphy (習字) certificate and license with the cover letter. Partially these were delayed for laziness, partly for business, and finally because they use fancy words in fancy documents, for fancy arts (i.e., it just takes time to translate this stuff.) I won’t give a lot of detail about my translation choices here, but I might address that on my Japanese study blog later.

初段手紙All of these documents are written in traditional style: with text in columns, read from top to bottom; the first column being the right-most. My first image is a cover letter. It is titled: “On delivery of your license/certificate”. The main body of the text says,

“Our respectful congratulations on acquiring your license and certificate. From this time on we request that you take the guiding philosophy, “Proper, beautiful Japanese calligraphy borne from love”, advocated by our founder, Master Harada Kampo; and moreover, with a heart for deep research, contribute to the refining of skills and advancement of calligraphy culture and education.”

N.B. My translation was corrected on March 12th. I had mistaken polite use of potential form and got things backward.

They close with: “Sincerely, Harada Hiroshi, Director, Japanese Calligraphy Education Society”. Out of respect, I must say that I am uncertain about the director’s name. The characters used have many different readings and I couldn’t find any explanation of how his name should be read. Other common readings would be: Hiroyuki, Hiroyoshi, Hiromune, Hironori. Less common readings also exist. This letter was a small B5 size.

The next document is a certificate (認定証) noting my achievement of shodan (初段) rank. The first column this as certificate number 166144. 初段認定証Big text in the next column says “Certificate”. My rank and name are shown in the third column. The main body says, “According to the foundation, this proves that you have successfully achieved the level specified above.” The next column lists the date, January 9th, Heisei Year 20. Finally two columns reading, “Foundation: Japanese Calligraphy Education Society” and, “Director: Harada Hiroyuki”, respectively, wrap it up. The red stamp in the lower left corner is the Director’s official stamp for society business. Note that it must overlap his name. It is written in an old seal script, making it a little hard to read, but if you compare it to the handwritten text, maybe you can see the connection.

This document was written by brush on a B4 size piece of thick white stock.

初�師範免許状The last document is a license (免許状) authorizing me as an Elementary Level Instructor (初等師範). It is written by brush on an A3 size piece of heavy parchment color stock. The layout is very similar to the certificate, with the first three columns listing: License Number 1610907; “License”; and “Elementary Level Instructor – Moriya Eiriku”. Adjacent to my name it says, “Born June 14th, Showa Year 40”. The main body says, “This proves that, having passed the foundation’s ability review, you are qualified to provide instruction for the level stated above.” Again, the final three lines are the date, foundation, and director, like the certificate except that the date is February 5th.

My teacher would have submitted my December 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 licensing date differs because it is decided after a completed application has been received.

The license has an extra stamp of validation in the middle with the name of the foundation, and a partial stamp near the upper right. I believe the other half of the partial stamp is on a document at the society. If the veracity of my license were questioned, they could prove it is not a forgery. The first twelve characters on the large stamp correspond with the director’s stamp. Although, it is carved in an older seal script, you might be able to notice the similarities. Don’t be thrown off by five characters being in the second column.

One final footnote. I refer to this as being like a black belt in karate, merely because the system of levels is common in dojo-style study, not because there is any martial application of this skill. At least one person was confused by this earlier. However, we should not forget the Chinese axiom, “The brush is mightier than the sword”.


10 Responses to “Letter, Certificate, and License”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    Those last two certificates are beautiful in themselves. I wonder, how do they look to Japanese people? Do they look old-timey, like diplomas over here do, or do they look contemporary, like just another way of writing?

  2. Stefanie Says:

    I’m so glad you posted these! They are so pretty, and what a great accomplishment on your part!

  3. びっくり Says:

    I corrected my translation today. Turns out I made a big mistake. I am still learning to properly use polite forms of speech. They used potential form conjugation to express a polite request. Also, potential and passive forms are sometimes similar and I got all twisted around.

    The potential form in polite use is intriguing. The sentence, “What can you eat?”, when used by a kind restaurateur, can mean, “What’ll ya have?”, or “What’s your pleasure?” One might find this confusing, but if you understand the context, you can follow along. English has a few twists that require understanding context. For example, the use of ‘could’ and ‘would’ for polite present tense. “Could you go to the store for me?”, doesn’t mean, “were you able to”, but rather, “can you” in most uses. This has thrown my students a little.

    Stefanie – Thanks for the praise.

    Sylvia – Indeed, the certificates are beautiful pieces of work. I doubt I will ever have the skill to write a document like that. It takes repeated practice on an intense level. People who write diplomas, certificates, year-end cards, and other official correspondence get paid well to perform their craft. I think these look very formal. To look old-timey, I would probably use handmade paper and switch to a semi-cursive script. A reisho script would give a very old-time feel because it was generally used by ministers and clerks in China for official correspondence.

  4. Sunday Soundcheck 17 « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] license they usually say they got their qualification. I noticed it when I was telling people about my license and then I heard them explaining to others using qualification. I am also amused because it sounds […]

  5. Ceremonial Society « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] doubted me this week are people who have seen how detailed I tend to be and who know that I am a licensed shuji (習字) instructor. Since the kanji I wrote – 修了 – and what they thought was correct – 終業 – were considerably […]

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

    […] the society was a sort of challenge to see how I would rank; and, after initial success, I set high goals for myself. Sometimes I write about my advancements; however, I’ve gotten comments about how […]

  7. James lee Dandridge Says:

    i am a 3rd degree blackbelt in aikido and my sister destroyed my letter from my instructor indicating that i meet the standards to teach aikido as an instructor

  8. びっくり Says:

    James, that’s a bummer. I hope aikido taught you the discipline not to harm your sister. 🙂 Are you still studying? If so, I hope you can reach 4th degree and get a new document.

  9. aikido self defense Says:


    This is a very useful post, you surely have good knowledge. Thanks very much. I bookmarked your site and will be back for more 😉 . Hope you post more stuff.


  10. bloggess Says:


    Letter, Certificate, and License | Neo-新びっくりブログ

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