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  • Writer's pictureSweet Orange

#199 「書」字の美しさ Calligraphy

Naoko Yoshida 吉田尚子

Title: Calligraphy


In 1982, Naoko did a summer homestay in Temecula. Seeing the spectacular scenery and big sky along the way, Naoko, who had lived her life since she was a small child while taking care of her surroundings, decided to live in the U.S., saying, "I can live in a relaxed and comfortable environment here!”

She had been working as a tour guide in Europe from her base in Tokyo, but she could not give up her dream of living in the U.S., so she quit her job and moved to the U.S. on her own. A few months later (1991), she entered 1,000 applications for the first green card lottery and successfully obtained permanent residency. Here is an interview with Ms. Naoko Satsuma Ogojyo, who has fulfilled her childhood dream.

From childhood, she learned calligraphy, swimming, piano, ensemble music, choral singing, painting, and English conversation. Some of them were started by my parents who asked me to learn them at first, but others I tried on my own if I was interested in them. Among them, I started calligraphy at the age of four. Calligraphy was very popular in Kagoshima, and I remember that everything I saw on the school teacher's board was beautiful. More than half of the class went to the school's calligraphy club or to private calligraphy classes.

Born in Kagoshima, Japan. Family of five: parents and siblings. "I initially attended a local calligraphy class near the school. The Southern Japan Calligraphy Association publishes a booklet called "Shorin," which lists the best works and ranks of each month. There were also many calligraphy exhibitions held several times a year, such as the "Southern Japan Calligraphy Exhibition," "Kagoshima Prefecture Calligraphy Exhibition," "Tanabata Calligraphy Exhibition," "Bunka Calligraphy Exhibition," "Mainichi Calligraphy Exhibition," and so on. When I was in elementary school, I was very happy to see my works published as excellent works and to see my grade improve rapidly, and I worked very hard. Until my three younger sisters started calligraphy, my mother would sit beside me all the time and get angry with me, saying, "No, it's not! and I cried as I wrote. It was very painful." I would sit on my knees for six to eight hours every day and write dozens or hundreds of sheets of calligraphy. The size of the paper for the works was at least three types: half-size paper, four-size paper, and strip paper. I practiced these endlessly. I received many awards and attended the award ceremony. The following Monday, at the school assembly, the principal called my name and presented me with a further award in front of the whole school, which continued for six years. People who knew me said to me, "That was the fruit of your sweat and tears." Calligraphy was the only one that produced results, so I enjoyed it and was able to continue.

After graduating from high school, I got into a band at junior college and then came to the U.S. after graduation, so I took a break from calligraphy. I thought I might teach calligraphy when I became a grandmother, but in my late 30s, I decided to teach a calligraphy class at the CREA Culture Salon in Los Angeles. There were more than a dozen students, ranging from first graders, housewives, and office workers to senior citizens in their 70s. I wondered if there was a demand for calligraphy in the U.S. One man, an office worker who works downtown and lives in Torrance, said, "I want to do something with a 'way' in it. I'm tired from work, but when I come here, I feel refreshed afterwards. When teaching children, we first consult with the parents and ask, "Do you want your children to write beautifully? Or do you want them to enjoy learning calligraphy?" I asked them what they wanted to learn. We were conscious of the fact that the children live in the U.S., so we wanted them to learn Japanese and Kanji rather than to write neatly. I was also aware of the importance of sitting properly for an hour. I was conscious of these things. At first, some of the students talked a lot and could not sit for an hour, but as time went on, they became able to write quietly. Basically, I tried to follow the model, but at the New Year's calligraphy contest, I asked the children to write with their individuality, and they created wonderful works.

After that, we moved to a new house and the calligraphy class was handed over to another teacher. Then, in 2019. A friend of mine asked me, "Would you like to write calligraphy for the Grammy Awards?" I was given the opportunity to write "ishiki" and the person's name at a booth introducing a company, and hand my calligraphy to the Grammy winners and others involved. Some of the famous names that I have written calligraphy for include Dionne Warwick, Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson, and Lady Gaga. Calligraphy is not only about the beauty of the characters themselves, but also about the way the writer places his or her attention and spirit while writing, which can be conveyed to those who see the work being written. I don't think a good piece of work is created when the writer's consciousness is in a different place, or when he or she is not facing the world. I do not teach now because I live in an area where there are few Japanese people, but I take personal orders to write "naming books," collaborate with people from different genres, and create artwork.”


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