The Pursuit of Pleasure Beyond Tradition and Style


A very attractive and interesting calligraphy event was held in Asakusa, Tokyo, one of the most famous places in Japan, from July 27th to the 29th, 2012. The event was the 11th Annual Calligraphy Exhibition by “Yūyū”, (Calligraphy friends from all over Japan). As it states in its name, there were works presented by people who love calligraphy across Japan (and we had a British friend too!).

This exhibition consisted of works of calligraphers which expanded beyond their styles. The concept of the group, led by Master Yamada Shūya (山田修也, やまだしゅうや) from Niigata Prefecture, was to pursue the theme and exhibit works of “what one wants to express.”

There were many works, each representing its own world. The works were done by calligraphers ranging in age from 8 years old to their 50s, all expressing themselves regardless of their age and their calligraphy career and styles. ・

The works ranged from the powerful and youthfully ebullient to a work expressing the sending of encouragement to a son about to reach the age of adulthood, to works of favorite words, to a work with a special frame, to a work honoring the memory of a mother, to a work which was his or her first piece, and more.

I could fully feel the depth and meaningfulness of this exhibition.


Figure 1: A work by Master Yamada Shūya, leader of this group


Figure 2: A powerful work, “煒曄”, by Ms. Takahashi Kashū (高橋花修, たかはしかしゅう) and a woman seen viewing the work.


Figure 3: With Master Yamada Shūya

First, let me introduce the work with a special frame.


Figure 4: A work by Master Usuki Suiun (薄木水雲, うすき すいうん), a poem by Kakinomoto Hitomaro (柿本人麿, Kakinomoto Hitomaro) from“A Collection of Myriad Leaves: Ashihikino yamagawanoseno narunaheni yutsukigatakeni kumotachiwataru” (あしひきの 山河の瀬の 響るなへに 弓月がたけに 雲立渡, あしひきの やまがはのせの なるなへに ゆつきがたけに くもたちわたる). The calligraphy was written on silver foil, enhancing the beauty of the work through the effect of the light emanating from the beaten silver.


Figure 5: Left: “夕風” from One Hundred Waka Poems. The work by Ms. Nakagawa Reisen (中川嶺泉, なかがわ れいせん) uses old kimono material for the frame of the scroll. The cloth and pattern of the kimono material is beautiful so it is well suited to be used as a frame. 

Right: “述懐”, from Wei Zheng’s poem, a work by Ms. Iwata Hōsui (岩田萌粋, いわた ほうすい). It is written on green paper to enhance the effect of the work.


Figure 6: “一心” by Ms. Ōishi Keimu (大石景夢, おおいし けいむ).This work is written directly on cloth, like an interior accessory.

Next, let me introduce some works which express thoughts for the calligraphers families.


Figure 7: “天空” by Mr. Saito Kyokuhō (齋藤旭峰, さいとう きょくほう), written with gratitude and in memory of his Mother who passed away last year.“With great thankfulness to a Mother and sending wishes for happiness from so many people reaching for the “sky (天空).”


Figure 8: A work by Ms. Iwata Hōsui (岩田萌粋, いわた ほうすい), “Please color yourself beautiful” (words by Sato Hachirō). This is a message of encouragement for her son who reached the age of adulthood last spring.

Here is a work which uses both sumi-e and calligraphy.


Figure 9: “空即是色, くうそくぜしき” by Ms. Miyazaki Keiyū (宮崎圭佑, みやざきけいゆう).
She drew the scenery from her travels to Mt. Kōya. It is a clever idea to combine the drawing of the view from her travels along with the calligraphy.

Here is one from England.


Figure 10: “一石二鳥”, by Mr. Stephen Grayston (灰色石). He sent his work all the way from England via air mail. This is his 3rd time to present his work.

On July 28th there was a live demonstration of calligraphy. Some masters wrote guests’ favorite words on Japanese paper fans. The guests chose their favorite words, such as the names of their children, personal mottos, or cool words that helped us to forget about the heat. The venue was filled with smiles of those who received a fan with their favorite words to keep.


Figure 11: Three masters who were trying their best to write calligraphy for the guests. Master Usuki Suiun (薄木水雲, うすき すいうん), Ms. Tamate Juan (玉手寿杏, たまて じゅあん), and Ms. Tsukuda Sensui (佃千翠, つくだ せんすい).


Figure 12: Master Usuki Suiun (薄木水雲, うすき すいうん), demonstrating calligraphy on the spot.


Figure 13: The calligraphy work “龍太” by Master Usuki Suiun.

In the next article we will present an interview with Master Yamada Shūya, leader of this event and the group. Stay tuned!

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Rona Conti

Rona Conti is a painter and calligrapher whose artwork is represented in numerous public, private and corporate collections and museums in the United States and internationally. English editor for Beyond Calligraphy, in 1999, she began studying Japanese calligraphy with (Mieko) Kobayashi Sensei of Gunma from whom she received her pen name (魂手恵奈). Invited to exhibit calligraphy at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art with the International Association of Calligraphers for the last five years, she received the “Work of Excellence" Prize three times. She was invited to demonstrate Japanese Calligraphy at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2009. Her handmade paper artwork is produced in New York City at Dieu Donne Papermill.

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