In Figure 4 you can see a small, framed calligraphy of three haiku (俳句,はいく, i.e. “a very short Japanese poem”). Haiku is governed by three major rules:

1. A verbal punctuation word that separates two ideas or verbal images.

2. It consists of 17 morae and phrases within haiku have (usually) 5, 7, and 5 morae respectively.

3. The text has a seasonal reference (which does not necessarily mean that haiku must be nature related).

Figure 4. Calligraphy of three haiku (俳句), i.e. a very short Japanese poem. Note the intended irregular writing style.

As you can see, the work in Figure 4 has three haiku, but none of them has 3 verses (5+7+5) fitted into one row each. This is another example of merging “scattered writing” with the “broken writing” techniques (already explained in Part 1 of this article). Note the open space in the top-left and bottom-right corners of the work, which give it a spacious look and add a lightness to the form. It further emphasizes the gently cascading composition of this calligraphy, showing the skill of the calligrapher. Delicate ink accents suggest that it was written by a female artist. In fact, it is a work of a relative of Master Ono, Master Ono Saga (小野左鵞, おのさが).

Figure 5. Warm smile of Master Mistuno Mihō (光野美峯) and her stunning kana work incorporating two waka (和歌), i.e. Japanese poems.
Figure 5.1. A close up of the calligraphy work shown in Figure 5

In Figure 5 you can see both the work and the person behind the brush. The smiling face of Master Mitsuno Mihō (光野美峯, さんのみほう) and her stunning kana work incorporating two Japanese poems (和歌, わか, i.e. “waka”). The history of waka goes back to Heian period (平安時代, 794 – 1185), the time when the Japanese art was at its peak, highly influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism and Confucianism. In the Heian period, waka had many forms which varied mainly in their length. Throughout history its meaning was narrowed down to a “short poem”. Since traditionally waka is neither ruled by a stiff structure or concept (in contrast to haiku), nor encumbered with rhyming requirements, it is basically free style poetry. This particular calligraphy employs both a “scattered writing” and a “broken writing” technique.

Figure 6. Seven hanging scrolls of seven different kanji. It is a good opportunity to compare how drastically handwritings and compositions of different calligraphers may vary.

Kana was not the only theme of the exhibition. In Figure 6 you see seven hanging scrolls (掛け軸, かけじく, kakejiku) with single characters and the signatures of the respective calligraphers below. The meanings of the kanji are as follows (in order from right to left): 喝 (かつ, katsu, i.e. “hoarse”), 麗 (れい, rei, i.e. “lovely”), 鼓 (つづみ, tsuzumi, i.e. “hand drum”, also “beat”, or “rouse”, though it may be a farfetched reference to the scenic island in China 鼓浪屿 (Chinese: Gǔ làng yǔ)), 福 (ふく, fuku. i.e. “happiness”), 超 (ちょう, chō, i.e. “superb”), 健 (けん, ken, i.e. “healthy”). Those works not only show the personal brushworks of several calligraphers, but also a variety of arrangements of the white space on the paper, as well as different preferences in materials chosen for framing.

In figure 7, you can see a calligraphy of a dōyō (童謡, どうよう, i.e. “nursery rhyme”), with a small ink painting at the bottom. Ink painting and calligraphy are considered sister arts. In the ancient history of China, those who were skilled at calligraphy, ink painting and poetry, were treated with a great respect.

Figure 7. A hanging scroll incorporating calligraphy of a Japanese nursery rhyme, and corresponding ink painting.

The text is written in historical Japanese language, which is not easy to translate, even for native speakers. In my interpretation below I tried to stay as close to the original as possible. I have also added readings of kanji in hiragana.

That mountain where I chased a rabbit
That river where I caught fish
As now, a commotion in my heart
Unable to forget my home (place where one grew up)

Wondering about my parents wellbeing
Worrying about their health and my friends, too
While facing difficulties of my own
I remember my home<

It revitalizes my memories
And makes me want to return one day
To the home of green mountains
To the home of fresh water

Now, I hope the ink painting seems clear in meaning. It symbolizes one’s home, which is dearly missed.