On the floor with knees bent under her, sits a young woman—the
supreme commander—of Japanese ancestry, in her mid-20s, her
back straight, yet relaxed. She seems to be comfortable. Her
face looks peaceful, and her breathing is deep and relaxed.
She opens her eyes and takes in the sight before her: a battlefield,
a weapon, a castle, armor. Silent, the supreme commander decides
Click on image for
Meet Rie Takamasu from Yokkaichi, Japan. This extraordinary
woman is unique and one cannot help but like her immediately.
She is forthright, bold, sensitive, compassionate, and has a
great passion for what she does; yet, she does not show her
emotions openly. “In calligraphy,” she explains, “if one draws
thick lines, one is said to show more emotions. With regards
to my calligraphy, I am not one who draws thick lines.”
As she reaches for the brush and wets the ink stone with small
amounts of water, grinding the ink stick with circular motion
in order to make an adequate supply of ink for one session,
she looks focused, yet relaxed, as in a state of mind where
peace is present.
With the brush prepared, holding it in her right hand, she
pauses for a brief moment, overlooking the paper, determining
on where to start. With her back still perfectly straight, she
holds the brush with three fingers, and starts to draw in the
upper right-hand corner of the paper. Her stroke is reminiscent
of a smooth river flowing from one part of the character to
another, her brush never leaving the paper. Some parts of the
character she draws have thicker lines than others, and most
of the ends of the lines making up the characters curve a little.
When she finishes the first character, she goes on to draw
the second, located in the lower right-hand corner. When it
is done, she continues with the third, located in the upper
left, and finishes with the fourth character in the lower left-hand
corner of the paper. She does this with the same perfection,
and calmness, over and over again, always holding the brush
at a nearly perfect 90-degree angle.
Takamasu (or Rie-san, which is a polite way to address her,
or anyone from Japan) knows what she is talking about. She has
studied calligraphy for 12 years and has earned third dan level.
“I have one more level to study before becoming a teacher,”
Learning calligraphy takes patience, lots of patience. “Every
Saturday after school I used to go to calligraphy practice.
I had to finish 10 of these ‘battlefields’ and show them to
my teacher—first five, then three, then two—before I could go
out to play with my friends,” she continued.
Concentration is something she mastered through the many years
of practicing calligraphy. Seeing her concentrate, one wonders
how in the world she does it. “In calligraphy, one has to learn
how to concentrate. Your legs have to be folded under you, and
sitting on them for a long time, as we have all experienced,
makes them sore.”
Rie-san admitted. “It is a learning process,” she added with
laughter. “The way you hold the brush and draw your characters,
the way you sit, the way you concentrate, all show your personality.
If you are not straight all through— you were, and still are,
considered a lazy person with a sloppy personality.”
In Japan, character is important and should be instilled early
in childhood, and calligraphy is a way to teach it. Therefore,
calligraphy is on the school curricula throughout Japan.
“My parents wanted me to be able to write nicer and better,
especially when attending formal occasions such as weddings,”
says Rie-san. “In the guest books, which everyone will be able
to view, if there is anyone who has written with poor character,
they will forever be remembered as shameful people.” On the
other hand, she also explained, if one can write beautifully,
one is considered educated.
In this battle, Rie-san will be remembered for the beautiful
character she has, her artistic sensitivity, her compassion,
determination, energy, and perfect simplicity. She is truly