Being one of the most well known countries in the world, many are aware of the beauty that Japan has to offer, especially with its cherry blossoms. However, there is so much more that we have yet to discover in Japan. Along with the rest of their interesting culture, Japan’s visual arts are really something to appreciate. Starting off with an art that is known globally, origami takes the crown with its popularity. It is derived from the words “ori” meaning to fold and “kami” meaning paper. However, don’t be fooled by the whole section of paper creations to be part of origami. In origami, it strictly follows the rule of only folding paper, which means that cutting or gluing the paper is prohibited. Otherwise, that would be known as kirigami which is derived of “kiru” which is “to cut” and kami/paper again. Usually, the most common design that is thought of when associating with origami is the paper crane. Did you know of the popular Japanese legend that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted one wish? Well, the paper crane and its legend didn’t suddenly catch the interest of everyone one day. It is thanks to Eleanor Coerr’s novel Sadako and 1,000 Paper Cranes, based off a true story, about Sadako’s struggle to create 1,000 paper cranes in hopes of curing her illness, which she caught from the radioactive bombs in World War 2. While making all of the cranes, she spreads the message of peace and brings it to other people’s attentions. Although Sadako passes away before completing her goal, her classmates finished the rest of the cranes for her and continued her work, even bringing government awareness. Sadako’s words have had such a profound impact on Japan and now, on the world, that popularity for the origami crane and then origami itself exploded, leading us to present day.
While there are the meaning stories behind Japanese arts, the elegance of Japan has yet to be uncovered. Calligraphy/Shodo in Japan, which means “the way of beautiful writing”, is as important as such paintings are to the Western culture. However, they base their calligraphy on the simple and graceful aesthetic. But, the art itself is more complicated than it seems with every brush of a character as a crucial part of the finale. There are three main styles that calligraphy is written in: Kaisho, Gyosho, and Sosho. Kaisho, which means “correct writing”, is a style in which the strokes are done clearly, the characters looking as if they were printed. Gyosho means “traveling writing” and has semi-cursive strokes. Like English cursive, the characters will connect to one another, creating a round look overall. Lastly, the hardest calligraphy style to read is Sosho, which means “grass writing”. Here, the characters are so connected to each other that it is almost impossible to know what the meaning of it is. That’s mainly why this form of calligraphy is often used more as a form of art rather than to tell direct information. One usually starts with writing in Kaisho and then progressing to Gyosho and so on. Japanese calligraphy looks simple at first glance, but it’s an extremely complex process which requires oneself to be at peace and become one with calligraphy itself. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Practicing calligraphy maybe even help one find peace within their troubles and help them relax! Overall, with both aspects of elegance and being meaningful, Japanese arts are something that will surely be remembered.