If you’ve spent a lot of time at home so far this year, then chances are that you’ve probably grown a bit bored of some of the pastimes and hobbies that you usually enjoy. If that’s the case, why not take a break from normality and try some new, Japan-inspired activities instead?
Calligraphy is the traditional Japanese art of drawing beautiful kanji characters and words. Also known as ‘Shodo’, this iconic art is often taught to young children from an early age to help them practice holding a brush and drawing, as well as as a way to remember important kanji.
While master calligraphers often invest a lot of money into making sure that they have the perfect tools for their art, all that you need to try it for yourself is a brush, paper, ink (or paint) and a paperweight to hold everything down as you work.
There are lots of videos online teaching basic calligraphy, and many books are available as well. For those interested in serious practice, starter kits and tools can be bought and ordered from multiple companies and websites, and classes can be taken both in Japan or overseas – you may even find a teacher in your city who can teach you!
If Japanese calligraphy seems a bit difficult for you, a form of calligraphy that involves writing English words with a brush-like pen has also become popular recently in western countries, so why not try that instead?
When you think of flower arranging, you may have an image of someone placing flowers, stems and leaves in a nice vase to place on a windowsill or table, or of a florist wrapping a bouquet of roses in pretty pink paper for a customer to give to a loved one on a date.
In comparison, Japanese flower arrangement (known as ‘Ikebana’) is considered to be a form of ‘art’ that focuses on using the qualities, colours and significance of chosen flowers, stems and other items in order to express feelings, emotions and atmosphere.
Ikebana is about more than just finding beautiful flowers and putting them together to make appealing arrangements. Practitioners can study for years under masters and via courses to learn more about the ideal arrangement styles, and there are even levels of qualification and certificates that can be earned by the most determined of students.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find an Ikebana class or instructor offering classes nearby, but there are also plenty of books and videos available that provide a beginners guide to this beautiful art of flower arrangement.
You may associate tea with the British, but Japan also has a long history of green tea production and ornate tea ceremonies which has become ingrained in the country’s culture and traditions. If you’ve ever visited Japan then you may have attended a tea ceremony for yourself; after experiencing the elegance and attention to detail that your server will have demonstrated and tasting the way that bitter freshly-brewed tea interacts with the sweet flavour of an accompanying ‘wagashi’ Japanese sweet, you’ll no doubt wish that you could recreate the experience at home every single day.
Just like calligraphy and Ikebana, those who practice the art of tea ceremony often study under a master for years to perfect their skills. Appreciating Japanese tea, however, is something that anyone can do at home and makes for a wonderful pastime or hobby.
Starter kits with the tools required to make tea Japanese-style can be easily found online, as can instructions on how to start. Of course, you don’t need all of this equipment to enjoy a good cup of tea – simply investing in some high quality Japanese green-tea (available loose-leaf or in bag form at many supermarkets and online across the world) and pairing it with a sweet yet subtle ‘wagashi’ style treat is all you need to introduce the magic of Japanese tea ceremony into your daily life.
While we’re sure you’d much rather be enjoying the ‘real deal’ at a class or ceremony in Japan during a much-needed vacation, attempting a hobby such as calligraphy, flower arranging or tea appreciation at home is a wonderful way to shake-up what may have become a monotonous routine and introduce some Japanese culture and tradition into your life as you wait for your next trip.
Even better, you may find true enjoyment in a Japan-inspired activity – something that you can truly indulge on your next journey to the country and truly make the most of!
To learn more about the activities and traditions that you can experience on an off-the-beaten-track tour with Heartland Japan, get in touch today!