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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

Nara's product 2: writing brush (fude 筆)

Have you seen any Japanese arts of calligraphy? It is called ,"Shodo (書道)” and is popular as one of the traditional form of art, as well as a way to discipline our mind. Calligraphy is taught at elementary schools as one of the sub-subjects to cultivate concentration, and learn the correct forms of kanji, or Chinese characters. Also, there are many private calligraphy schools or private teachers living and teaching at their own homes.

In Japan, it has been traditionally believed, "how well (or badly) you write words, reflect who you are", and those who have good hand-writing has been regarded as cultured and sophisticated. Even in this age of computer, some companies require people to write their resume by their own hand-writings so that they intuitively sense the personalities in the screening process.

"Sumie (墨絵)” or black and white paintings with ink and brushes has also developed in the middle age. Especially in Zen temples, you can still find a lively dragon depicted on the ceilings or paper sliding doors.

As an ancient capital, Nara has been famos for producing high quality writing materials.

It is said that the writing brush was first introduced to Japan from the Tang Dynasty in China by the Buddhist priest Kukai (空海) in the early 9th century. He was originally sent to China by the Japanese government to study the newest teachings of Buddhism for 20 years. However, miraculously, he found a master waiting for him, and mastered "Shingon Esoteric Buddhism" just within 2 years. He received a mission to spread the teachings in Japan and many treasures, such as sutras, scrolls, ritualistic objects, books, etc. He also learned many technics including how to make the writing brush and returned from China in 811. As he arrived Nara, he taught craftsmen how to make them, and that is said to be the origin of Nara fude.

The writing brushes are hand-made of hair of horse, cow, and deer.

Today, Nara fude is recognized among the traditional arts and crafts by the Japanese government.

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