Since all elementary age children in Japan learn at least basic calligraphy, or shodō, I chose to learn the very basics and try it myself.
While researching, I discovered that modern shodō is not only for kanji like I originally thought, so I chose to write in katakana, as I felt writing characters I knew would be more accurate than following a guide to write characters I don’t understand.
Before I even began doing test strokes, I cross-checked how the techniques were performed on several sites to make sure the information I was following was accurate and looked at how shodō masters wrote the same characters. I learned the stroke techniques and practiced them many times before using the rice paper.
The paper used for shodō is apparently very thin rice paper. Luckily, one of my friends had already ordered thin rice paper, so I borrowed some of his. I had to substitute regular paintbrushes for the traditional fude, as when I looked them up to buy, they were out of my price range. The stiffer bristles probably made my characters less flowing, unfortunately. Another substitution I had to make was Plaka paint instead of ink. Once again, the ink and the stone you are to mix it on weren’t affordable, so I used Plaka that I already had, as I felt acrylic or watercolor wouldn’t imitate ink well enough, and because Plaka, when watered down, has a consistency similar to that of ink.
A problem I ran into after I started writing was that it’s hard for someone who isn’t inherently familiar with Japanese culture to judge whether or not I did a good job, which makes it hard to improve. Without someone who knows what they’re doing, I don’t know whether I did good or bad. However, shodō seems to be a good medium to learn brush control and refining fine motor skills. Perhaps that’s why elementary children learn it?