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A calligraphy girl succeeding her grandmother’s dream
Winning the President Award at the 50th Ise Jingu Shrine Offertory Shodo Exhibition!

Aki Yokoyama

“I’ll be the champion of Japan some day.” These were the final words Aki Yokoyama said to her hospitalized grandmother at the age of nine. Since then, Aki has devoted herself to shodo (Japanese calligraphy) to keep her promise and successfully won the President Award, one of the most respected awards, at the 50th Ise Jingu Shrine Offertory Shodo Exhibition. This was an exceptional achievement for a university student in the open category with famous calligraphers participating.

Influenced by her grandmother who was a teacher of a shodo school, Aki started to practice calligraphy at the age of five, and based on the talent passed down from her grandmother and her determination, won prestigious awards at national calligraphy contests one after another while still in elementary and high school. “My grandmother’s dream was to win an honorable mention award of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology at ‘Zenkoku Shodoten’ (National Calligraphic Exhibition). As I promised I would make her dream come true, I have devoted myself to calligraphy.”

With the President Award-winning work

Everything seemed to be going well toward achieving her dream, but at the first contest after entering WASEDA, she experienced failure. “For the four months before the contest, I practiced, sparing no time for sleep. I was rejected, and I really felt I probably didn’t have any talent.” University students make an application to the ‘open category,’ not the ‘student category,’ and the difference was acting as a barrier to success. “Prior to that, all I had to do was to brush letters that appeared beautiful to everyone, but in the open category, sensitivity is needed. As the criteria of evaluation changes, it was very difficult to respond to them, and I was very troubled.” It was at that period when the assistant principal of her alma mater, WASEDA Jitsugyo High School, asked her to attend the orientation for university entrance to be held at Okuma Auditorium as a representative of graduates. “I felt so happy because they recognized that I had done calligraphy and studied well in high school. This was a turning point for me to be more positive.”

Aki’s strong commitment to calligraphy exerts extraordinary concentration in her daily practice. “I have a brush in my hand almost all day before a contest. When I draw, I hear no sounds or noise around me. I don’t feel the heat and later notice I am drenched with sweat (laughing).”

Aki says that to develop sensitivity means to become curious about different things and that she has been greatly stimulated from lectures she attended. “It was a great experience to listen to artists and sport experts from many different fields at open lecture courses. During one lecture, I was impressed when I learned about the presence of ‘Art in Hospital,’ an activity to heal people suffering from diseases through artwork. I believe that calligraphy has the power to heal people. It would be fantastic if I could heal people suffering from disease or in mental difficulties through my calligraphy. This is a new dream I’ve discovered.”

Believing in the power of calligraphy, committing her thought to tens of thousands of common Japanese writing paper and continuing to develop her skill and sensitivity, Aki finally created [松静鶴留声] (The voice of a crane lingers in a pine tree), and won the President Award at the Ise Jingu Shrine Offertory Shodo Exhibition. “I finally won the number-one award in Japan. My work has caught up with your dream, Grandma!” After fulfilling the promise with her grandmother, Aki will continue calligraphy. Her enthusiasm will never change until she realizes her new dream of “healing people with calligraphy.”

At the venue of the Ise Jingu Shrine Offertory Shodo Exhibition

(Offered By:WASEDA WEEKLY)

Aki Yokoyama

Born in Tokyo. Graduated from WASEDA Jitsugyo High School. 2nd year, School of Law. While targeting becoming a calligrapher, she is studying to become a lawyer. “My dream is to contribute to society as a lawyer with the knowledge of law and the spirit of calligraphy! This year again, I will try my best in the National Calligraphic Exhibition.” Her favorite food is tiramisu. Her favorite movie is of course, “Shodo Girls! Our Koshien.”