The past few weeks have been extremely busy, but after each Friday test I have participated in the weekly Friday project. The project two weeks ago was learning how to play the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. The large wooden instrument is 180 cm long and has thirteen strings with (re)movable bridges. The strings were traditionally made of silk, but may now be made of a nylon-like material which is cheaper and less easily broken. The musician will wear three picks (made of ivory or plastic) on their thumb, index finger and middle finger. Our teacher explained that the musician is seated differently at the koto depending on whether these picks are square like the ones we used, or rounded. The instructor gave us a very simple piece to attempt playing and I found it enjoyable enough that I may attempt to learn more about the instrument in the coming weeks.
This past Friday’s project was shodo, the Japanese art of calligraphy. Calligraphy is practiced using a wide brush, ink, and paper. However, a weight, felt mat, and ink well are also useful. The brush is liberally dipped in the ink and then held completely vertically over the paper as the writer draws. Each line is started with a 45 degree angle and there are three styles of ending the line: abrupt, trail, and hook. After learning how to draw the different lines, we practiced various kanji such as “dream” 夢. We were each told to write a kanji that we found particularly interesting but I couldn’t really think of anything that intriguing so I ended up writing the kanji for “heaven” 天 in the center of the paper with the kanji of the four seasons (春, 夏, 秋, 冬) surrounding it. It was not a particularly good representation of the art, but I believe an artist’s style could easily come through with more practice.