January 2 – Kakizome in Japan

Posted on January 2, 2015

These characters mean
"commitment" and "promise"
This holiday means literally “first writing,” but a better translation might be “first calligraphy.”
Back in ye olden days, people would write on the second day of the year using ink made with the first water drawn from the well on New Year's Day. They would write Chinese poetry, and they would be sure to include words like “long life,” “perennial youth,” and other hopeful or lucky phrases. Then they would burn the poetry.

In modern times, people write just an auspicious word or two in kanji, rather than entire poems (kanji is the name for Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system). Students are assigned kakizome as their winter holiday homework, and some calligraphers take part in a large-scale writing event.

Apparently the calligraphy is enjoyed for a few weeks (perhaps also graded by teachers), but it is usually burned on January 14 in a festival. It is said that, if the wind lifts the ashes high in the sky, the calligrapher's skill will improve.

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