Meaning literally ‘first writing’, kakizome are the first calligraphic writings of the new year. Calligraphy is a widely practised and distinguished art in Japan, where kakizome began centuries ago with the writing of Chinese poetry in kanji (Chinese characters) as a way for the Japanese to sharpen their minds and improve their concentration. The tradition has evolved and today, instead of writing out long passages of Chinese poetry, people use kanji to write their own auspicious words and phrases to help strengthen their resolve and reinforce their resolutions for the new year.
While kakizome is largely completed in the Japanese home, many public kakizome events are held in buildings such as schools and sports halls during the first few days in January. Children and young adults compete to write specified words or poetry; they are then judged on the beauty of their strokes and the character of their writing.
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