January 5, 2011 / 8:09 AM / 9 years ago

Japan calligraphers break out the brushes for 2011

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Nearly 3,000 people gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday from as far away as Brazil to break out their calligraphy brushes for an annual new year’s ritual to bring in 2011.

participants write at a calligraphy contest to the celebrate the New Year in Tokyo January 5, 2011. About 3,000 calligraphers took part in the contest writing different characters depending on their school grade. The contest is part of a bigger competition, in which about 11,000 entrants hope to win the "Prime Minister's Prize" by being judged as the best drawing. The winner will be announced in late February. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Traditionally, people across Japan use ink brushes and paper to write out their resolutions, wishes or auspicious Chinese characters to commemorate the start of a new year.

Participants, who ranged from those barely old enough to write all the way up to 80-somethings, were given 24 minutes to complete their calligraphic portrayals of the year ahead.

“I first came since my nephew had been coming a few times, and now I’ve come 13 times in a row,” said 60-year-old Yasuko Ikeda after finishing her piece, executed using a thick, horse-hair brush and ink made from charcoal.

The Chinese characters selected for people to write ranged from “New Year” to “Vibrant Nature.”

“I hope that, as I wrote, I can get through this year without catching a cold or getting sick,” said Yuki Oogane, 12, who wrote the Chinese characters for “Healthy Child.”

This year, a group of students from a Japanese language school based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, also took part.

“It is a different experience because we don’t have that in Brazil. It was different and new,” said Kevin Kenji Ishii, 16, when asked about practicing calligraphy in Japan.

Calligraphy is a revered art in many parts of Asia, with the act of writing Chinese characters believed to sharpen the mind and improve concentration.

Japanese has three systems of writing. Hiragana and katakana have characters for each syllable, with katakana used for foreign words, while the Chinese characters are used to represent full words.

The calligraphy pieces are collected and ranked by judges according to strict rules which evaluate the calligraphers’ skills. Prizes will be awarded on the 23rd of January.

Reporting by Chris Meyers; editing by Elaine Lies

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