Recently Masumi informed me that the city of Koryama was offering a calligraphy class for foreigners. Despite my utter lack of painting and drawing skills, I excitedly agreed to go to the class.
When I arrived I was the only foreigner. However, the room wasn't empty -- there were about a dozen or more Japanese volunteers. After a few minutes, I was joined by two Canadian girls. The class began and we were given our introductory lesson by an 85-year-old retired school teacher. The lesson was really informative despite the fact that it was only in Japanese!
(PICTURE: My calligraphy sensei.)
After a few minutes we were each given ink and paper to practice on. With each stroke that I made I felt like I was ruining thousands of years of the calligraphy art form. I was horrible. After a couple of pathetic looking characters, the sensei took my hand in his and helped me draw. Minus the initial awkwardness of holding hands with a near stranger, the teacher's guidance was really a huge help.
After a couple of more minutes my characters started to look half decent. In fact, I made one letter that got "ooohs" and "ahhhs". One of the volunteers who spoke some English told me that I had a, "Strong stroke." Yes, friends, this was the first time anybody has ever said that to me.
(PICTURE: Some of my work. The top character on each paper means "big." The bottom character means "small.")