How Shodo Lessons Will Teach You More Than Calligraphy

ByJustin Hanus
May 22, 2019

How Shodo Lessons Will Teach You More Than Calligraphy

On the surface, it may seem that shodo is simply a form of Japanese writing. Actually, it is much more than that. The most well-known form of fine art in the country, children begin learning shodo at elementary school. It is also one of the most popular extra-curricular activities.

What Is Shodo?

Shodo means the way of writing. It was imported from China in the 8th century at the same time as brushes, ink, and paper. In the 10th century, Japanese calligraphers invented their own form of shodo using kanji or kana characters.

What can you learn by taking shodo lessons?

Japanese Language

The most obvious benefit of shodo is that it will help you in your efforts to learn Japanese. Spending time to reproduce characters will solidify their form in your mind. It will also give you a new appreciation for writing.

The Importance of Patience and Continuous Practice

Like with any other art form, you never finish learning shodo. There is always room for improvement and the chance to further develop your skills. Remember back to when you were learning to write in your own language and how difficult you found it. Shodo adds a couple more layers of complexity because you must use special tools and each stroke should be beautiful.

When you start taking shodo lessons, you will find it particularly challenging. To learn to create artwork, you need to stay patient and be willing to practice often. These are good life skills to acquire.


Shodo requires using (and paying attention to) your entire body. You stand as you write, holding the brush in your right hand and pressing your left hand onto the paper (this is even the case if you are left-handed). As you form the characters, you need to control your breath and surrender yourself to the art. In this way, the practice becomes meditation. It is common to feel a sensation of well-being that lasts after you finish the lesson.

Be Satisfied with Imperfection

Once you’ve finished a stroke, you cannot go back and make changes. This is a rule of shodo. As a result, many pieces will have mistakes.

Beyond accepting these imperfections, you should use them as insights into how you are feeling. If your work is rushed, careless, or skewed, turn inward and think about what you need to do to relax or improve your mood.


Whether you are an extremely creative person or you rarely engage in creative activities, finding a new creative outlet is always beneficial. Shodo combines art and language, which means it gives you two distinct ways to express your creativity. In fact, practicing shodo can help you become more creative in other aspects of your life.

Taking a single shodo lesson will give you an interesting glimpse into the significance of this art. However, if you want to gain the full benefits, you should consider signing up for regular lessons. There are plenty of options all around Japan as well as online.

-あゆみ-魑魅魍魎 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Justin Hanus editor