Dalila Roglieri

Writing in Japan

11/07/2017

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Another article from the "Travel Diary of a Nutritionist" features every month on Yakult Wellness Magazine!

 

This month we follow Dalila in the amazement of her wonder with one of the most meaningful expressions of Japanese culture: the Shodō.

I can say that it was writing that I first encountered in Japan.

 

I have just reached the land of the Rising Sun: with the jet lag which slightly clouds my concentration, I leave the hotel with the sole purpose of finding something local to tame the hunger in my stomach, and here I am, I find myself immersed in Shodō's Art.
 

 I stop by a small stand on the street where I order food from what is undoubtedly the most beautiful menu I have ever seen: handwritten with subtle characters, giving the impression of the sensitivity of the person who wrote it.

 

I read the little manual several times: The letters are written in dark bold and other thin symbols with a colored pencil. There are drawings of carrots, sushi and European style cocktails. Among many representations in the menu, I find trees and flowers symbolizing the wonderful oriental nature.
 
I notice something particular about the relationship between Japan and writing. There are in fact three distinct alphabets, called Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.
In chronological order the first was Kanji. It represents the adoption of the Chinese alphabet by Japan, which originally lacked a writing system: the Japanese was, in fact, a purely oral language.

The Chinese ideograms, however, did not entirely fit the Japanese language: grammatical and syntax differences made it impossible to entirely represent Japanese without introducing further signs.
Therefore, Hiragana and Katakana were born, alphabets composed of signs that phonetically correspond to the syllables Japanese language is composed of.
The Hiragana alphabet is characterized by curved and cursive signs. It is used for words without Kanji equivalents, or to indicate the phonetics of little-known Kanji symbols.
Katakana writing, characterized by straight lines used to give spiky shapes, is used instead of foreign, technical or onomatopoetic words.

 

Finally, there is the Kanji that refers to an ancient Japanese art: the Shodo.
The term Sho Do literally means the way (Do) of writing (Sho). In Asian culture, the term "way" represents a path of inner growth that allows us to get to know the world around us better in order to obtain greater harmony with ourselves that , eventually, leads to personal serenity- the right path for happiness.
 

In this culture, growth occurs through constant study and improvement - without ever forgetting about simplicity and beauty. In the case of writing, this corresponds to finding the right balance between the basic elements: line, shape, and space.

Mastering the lines means exercising awareness, as the way they are written carries feelings and moods. Forms and spaces around them are graphic consequences that in life correspond to the events that determine our choices.

 

Therefore, the art of Japanese signs manifests the internal improvement of an individual.


My thoughts run immediately towards the West which I have just left: apart from all the comfort, isn’t this effective replacement of calligraphy with the alphanumeric keyboard a loss – the loss of the simplest way of expressing ourselves?




 

 

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