Sunday, June 7, 2009

etegami from the heart

Every once in a while I google "etegami" to see what shows up. In the past year, I've noticed that more and more Japanese etegami bloggers are using the alphabet spelling of etegami, and even posting the titles of their work in English. One site that I go back to time and time again is the official website of the Japan Etegami Society. They publish a monthly magazine that I have been curious about for a long time, but it's a bit pricey at 800 yen an issue, and I hadn't been able to take the plunge. Last week, however, I could no longer contain my curiosity, so I faxed them with a request for an introductory copy. To my delight, the June 2009 issue arrived soon thereafter. The title of the magazine is ETEGAMI written in bold Roman letters, which I thought was a bit unusual for a Japanese magazine on the subject of a traditional Japanese folkart practiced mostly by older Japanese men and women. Perhaps, I thought, it was simply a design strategy. But once I started flipping through the pages, I noticed a number of articles about etegami being taught and enjoyed in regions other than Japan-- particularly Hawaii and Brazil. Well, that made sense. Both those areas have a high percentage of citizens of Japanese descent. The photographs, however, showed young people with clearly western features enjoying lessons in etegami. Cool. Etegami really is becoming an international art form. The magazine surprised me in other ways. It featured articles on the late, great wood-block print artist Munakata Shiko, as well as Edo-period ukiyo-e. And another one on the work of the calligrapher Inoue Yuichi. The title of the June issue was Training Your Ability to Feel Deeply, and was subtitled with the words: "when your heart is moved, you can draw good etegami." Wow, heavy stuff. The magazine is filled with photos of etegami sent in by etegami artists from all over the world. Their styles are all so very different from one another. This magazine is serious reading material. Maybe 800 yen isn't too much to charge for it after all. I ended up paying for a year's subscription (each issue is cheaper that way). If I come across something I just have to share with you, I will certainly blog about it here. Stay tuned.

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