Writing Japanese Beautifully is a program developed by Professor Akira Takemoto and Master Calligrapher Yoshiyasu Fujii. The project began with a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation and the coordinated efforts of David Sprunger and Elliot Anders. For the past six years, Professor Takemoto has been using and developing this program to teach Japanese language students the joy of using a good pencil or a good fountain pen to write Japanese clearly, consciously, and beautifully. Using models written by Master Calligrapher Fujii, Professor Takemoto stresses the importance of building the kind of habits that will make the writing of Japanese a practice to be enjoyed for a lifetime.

The program is still a work in progress, but students at Whitman College are welcome to view parts of this program at the Whitman College Language Learning Center.

Preliminary Introduction to Utsukushii Moji

Beginning students of Japanese learn how to write two different syllabaries (hiragana and katakana ) as well as a specified number of Chinese-Japanese characters called kanji. When teachers introduce the writing system, they present the hiragana as a series of symbols that represent the sounds of Japanese, and they emphasize the importance of recognizing and reproducing these characters quickly and mechanically. Students learn stroke order and move quickly to reproduce these symbols. Moreover, students normally begin their practice by using computer generated hiragana and kanji.

This project assumes a different posture. We will ask students to learn the Japanese writing system not as a series of static symbols to memorize, but as a living script to be drawn and produced with care, skill, and feeling. That is, the sounds of Japanese, when written, represent a beautiful series of hand-drawn pictures. For this reason, we will ask students to begin seeing the hiragana and katakana and kanji not as mechanically produced symbols, but as pictorial images that can be written beautifully and well. We hope that students will also learn to appreciate their writing implements and develop a spirit that senses the aesthetic qualities inherent in what they write.