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‘Prayer’ is Shoko Kanazawa’s 2019 New Year Kanji for JAPAN Forward Readers




On a cold afternoon in late December, JAPAN Forward visited the home and studio of Shoko Kanazawa, a world-famous calligrapher based in Kugahara, on the outskirts of Tokyo.


In 2018, Shoko wrote an exclusive Chinese character for JAPAN Forward readers: hikari, “light.”


For 2019, she decided on a new character: inori, or prayer.


Prayer is very important for Shoko. She prays every time she begins a new piece of calligraphy. Her mother Yasuko — who has been raising Shoko by herself ever since Shoko’s father passed away when Shoko was just 14 years old — prays constantly, from the time she wakes up until the end of the day.


It was to her father in heaven — the father who had longed to see his daughter exhibit her calligraphy for the world to enjoy — that Shoko prayed before setting to work on the 2019 New Year’s character, “prayer.”


And it was with her mother’s help that Shoko completed the demanding task. It takes a lot of work to make the writing in the mind visible for all to see. Ink has to be poured into buckets and then sopped up with stray sheets of paper when it spills. A giant black felt carpet has to be rolled out as a place for the calligraphy writing to take place. Brushes must be cleaned and dried, and Shoko’s flowing kimono must be pinned back and held up so that it doesn’t dip into the fresh, glistening brushwork below her as she moves back and forth across the vast paper square.


But the basis of all this work is prayer. It is the bedrock of the Kanazawas’ lives.


With this character, inori, Shoko Kanazawa and her mother Yasuko pray for all of you. As Shoko says, a big beaming smile on her face, “I pray that everyone will have a Happy New Year!”


But what about you? What is your prayer for 2019?


In the comments below, please share your prayers for the year ahead — your hopes, your wishes, your dreams. Do you pray for Japan? Do you pray for peace and prosperity? Do you pray for a better world?


We will select our favorite prayers and feature them in a special JAPAN Forward article in the New Year. So please share your prayers with us — and with your fellow JAPAN Forward readers!


Happy New Year!



(Click here to read the article in Japanese.)