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Japan to nominate shodo calligraphy for UNESCO heritage list in 2026


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I found the below info helpful …

The combination of Kanji and Kana is the main difference between Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.

There is also aesthetics. Not all Japanese calligraphy include kana. In fact, I favor Kanji-only calligraphy. But I have come to appreciate kana calligraphy and do practice it from time to time. Even calligraphy that consists of only Kanji can have a Japanese “look”, differentiating itself from Chinese.

During the Kamakura period Japan started to develop their own aesthetics in many things, including art and calligraphy. It was during this period that true Japanese styled calligraphy started to emerge. When I say this calligraphy looks Japanese, is because its style resembles Japanese aesthetics.

Still today in Japan calligraphers often study old Chinese texts in order to learn calligraphy. Wang Xizhi (303-361) is the most influential Chinese calligrapher in Japan.

Another way to tell if a calligraphy is Japanese or Chinese is by analyzing the complexity of the characters. The Japanese have opted to simplify a lot of Kanji characters over the years. If a character looks really complex, it is most definite the Chinese version, since, again, the Japanese prefer a simpler version. These variations can be subtle in most cases by simplifying the amount of strokes in the characters while maintaining the essence and overall look. In other cases, the characters may change quite drastically.


8 ( +9 / -1 )

I wonder how different a new inscription to world heritage status really has to be. Japan seems to get away with just the fact it is Japanese - Japanese christian church, Japanese silver mine, Japanese factory, Japanese Chinese calligraphy - while it is impossible to have two versions of, say, European Gothic cathedral or Roman amphiteatre, both of which there are several of in Europe (even Africa and Asia in the latter case) unless there are major style differences. I feel like somebody is gaming the system but I stand to be corrected by those in the know.

-5 ( +11 / -16 )

Great news...

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

The Japanese are literally obsessed with UNESCO.

-7 ( +21 / -28 )

There are only two groups of people who know about UNESCO.

The people who work at UNESCO

Japanese people
-6 ( +21 / -27 )


Thanks for your contribution

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My understanding is that shodo originated and was developed to a high degree in that large country which lies across the sea, which we often describe as the Middle Kingdom. Whatever is Japanese about Japanese shodo really doesn't deserve UNESCO's attention.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

What people fail to realise is that each time Japan adds a UNESCO site or heritage list, it boosts tourism which is a big win for the nation.

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Well it's a pretty harmless thing {calligraphy } compared to all the crap happening world wide.

Can be beautiful too.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Yes, Fighto, we are aware that that is one of the banal ways that Japan sees place listings - as a tourism boost - as well as another craved approval of or popularity vote for Japan but listing is supposed to be: "for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Places as diverse and unique as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in the USA, or the Acropolis in Greece are examples of the 1007 natural and cultural places inscribed on the World Heritage List to date." The list of examples here I can understand. But a silver mine? A coal mine on a crumbling island? They may be of interest to people like me who have studied industrialisation as a process, concentrating on Japan, but "universal value"? Before listing most places are either unknown or of little interest even to people in Japan.

-6 ( +13 / -19 )

Most Japanese people these days can't even read the old style of writing.

This seems much more self-serving than any attempt to preserve culturally significant artistry.

-9 ( +8 / -17 )

Another one? At this rate, expect Japan to apply for Shohei Ohtani be included in the heritage list soon after he retired.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

The Rising Wasabi nailed this reporting years ago. "Entire Nation of Japan to be added to UNESCO".

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

I like calligraphy. It doesn't have to be Japanese though.

Are hieroglyphics registered with UNESCO? Or Arabic? Early forms of the alphabet? The Rosetta Stone?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Before listing most places are either unknown or of little interest even to people in Japan.

I wonder if places in Japan would rather be UNESCO listed or somehow become accepted, on Instagram etc., as a "power spot"? I wonder which one gets you the biggest boost in Japanese tourists.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Donald Seekins

My understanding is that shodo originated and was developed to a high degree in that large country which lies across the sea, which we often describe as the Middle Kingdom. Whatever is Japanese about Japanese shodo really doesn't deserve UNESCO's attention.

You are 100% right, Donald.

Basically, for as long as any living person can remember, Japan has been battling with an inferiority complex, when it compares itself to the "traditional" centers of global power/culture. The establishment here is constantly desperate to establish claims for the "specialness" of Japan. Hence, nominations like this, and for shitty old mines etc.

Note to Japanese officialdom: You would be respected more if you concentrated on doing great things now! Baseless, needy, historical claims win you no accolades. Do something great now to help the world out of its tailspin into disaster, and we will all salute you forever!!

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Three walls of my office are adorned with it - my master instructor's work and mine. If there's one thing I appreciate from my annual trips to Japan, aside from the memories and 15,000 photos, it's the calligraphy (and the set of brushes my now-deceased instructor's wife presented to me shortly after his funeral five years ago).

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What heritage will Japan claim next? Kimchi? Baseball?

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

David BrentToday 08:02 am JST

There are only two groups of people who know about UNESCO.

> The people who work at UNESCO

> Japanese people

I grew up in NYC and had never heard the term "world heritage site" until I got here. All the time I lived there never heard anyone talk about it nor knew the fact that the Statue of Liberty is on the list. Michelin was only known for tires and a fat mascot but Japan is OBSESSED with both.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Bashing the UN and saying it's unnecessary one minute, then begging them for recognition the next. I wonder why so much of Japan and its people need international recognition to feel more self-worth. Doesn't matter if it's MLB, UNESCO, or Michelin.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Should something that even Japanese people don't know about be registered as a UNESCO cultural heritage?

There are advantages and disadvantages to being registered as a UNESCO cultural heritage site, and there is a great advantage in preserving culture for future generations.

People who only look at the superficial say it's because they feel inferior or to increase their self-esteem, but that's not the important thing.

It is obvious that kanji originates from China, but in Japan, the Chinese characters are not used exactly as they are, and katakana and hiragana are unique to Japan.

Anyone who could consider books written in Japan's unique characters to be completely worthless would be a total eccentric.

Calligraphy is also one of the things that developed in Japan and has great historical value.

In present-day China, the ancient Chinese characters are no longer used, and the ancient culture has not been inherited. Even the name of the country of China, ''People's Republic of China,'' was written in kanji and was invented by the Japanese.

If we look at China, we can clearly see what happens if culture is not preserved and passed on to future generations. Culture is not something to be destroyed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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