About Shodo

The Philosophy of Shodo

Put simply, shodo is the art of taking kanji and hiragana characters and expressing their full beauty through the use of a brush and traditional ink known as sumi. It is recognized as one of the forms of bugei--philosophies advocating the refinement of the self through the mastery of an art. Other forms of bugei include arts such as kendo, judo, aikido, karatedo, sado, and kado.




How Shodo Is Written

Japanese is traditionally written in the same way as Chinese--from top to bottom, with each column going from right to left. Each of the sentences can incorporate the three kinds of characters, kanji, hiragana, and katakana with the former being logographic and the latter two being syllabic. 


The Art of Shodo

Shodo is the art of expressing characters with a flourish, scribing a line that extends from the first touch of brush to paper, to the departure of the brush from the completed piece. Sometimes the stroke is heavy, sometimes it is light. At times, it sweeps an arc, at others it takes dramatic turns. And where the brush floats from the plane of the paper to fall again at another location, the unbroken line remains in the eye of the beholder. 


In this way, shodo is a two-dimensional art form that describes its own three-dimensional creation. Shodo is a work of a single color given incredible variety through the expertise of the artist. Shodo is the coming together of  beauty of expression, motion, and meaning. 

An Art Of Five Styles

Learning the art of shodo requires the tutellage of a calligrapher skilled in one of the five classic styles of writing described below.



  • Kaisho (block-like)
  • Gyosho (semi-cursive)
  • Sosho (cursive)
  • Reisho (angular)
  • Tensho (engraved seal style) 






Shodo styles (right to left): Kaisho, Gyosho, Sosho, Reisho, Tensho
Shodo styles (right to left): Kaisho, Gyosho, Sosho, Reisho, Tensho