As the 3 month mark passes by and life in Japan has begun to become “normal” I’m still learning new things all the time. Recently I decided to take up a new extracurricular activity (in addition to Japanese language classes and taiko drum lessons), calligraphy. I’d considered doing this upon arriving here as I figured it would be a good way to learn kanji. Two weeks ago I had my first official lesson, where I received my set of supplies and started with the basic strokes (一 and 二, 1 and 2). むずかしいです！ It’s difficult! Even though I’m starting with the simplest of strokes it took many tries to get even close to a good product. To make things more interesting, being left handed really throws a wrench in things. In Japan, Japanese people who learn calligraphy do so with their right hand. Even if they are left handed they use their right hand for calligraphy. Fortunately playing my gaijin card worked for me and they gave me a pass to learn with my left. It definitely has thrown my teacher for a loop and it counters any natural movement I could possibly have in learning the art. But nothing here has come easy so if nothing else at least I’ve got a higher tolerance for the challenge!
My second week I went on to learn 三 (3) and 五 (5) (we learn 四 (4) after learning through to 10 as 四 is the most difficult). I started to learn 六 (6) but even that proves to be a challenge- just that little stroke on the top takes a million tries to get right! Maybe calligraphy isn’t the best way to learn kanji quickly, but hey at least I’m learning it! The other challenge is that my teacher only speaks Japanese and my supervisor (who’s my age) who has joined me in the class (much to my delight as I’m always excited to make Japanese friends!) has some English but it’s limited. So it’s another opportunity to force me to improve my Japanese. Although you may think, “but Tori you live in Japan aren’t you forced to use Japanese like all the time?!” I have to say that being a part of the foreigner community as well as having my Japanese English Teachers at work I’ve been able to get by with my minimal Japanese pretty well, so I welcome scenarios where my more proficient-in-Japanese friends or bilingual coworkers aren’t around to be my communication crutch. I came here to learn so as difficult as it may be I have to put myself in situations where I have to use the language!
I’m excited to keep learning calligraphy. My ultimate goal is to write my name in kanji: 鳥 関. Of course my name has to be super difficult kanji >_<