On January 9th, the Center for International Students and Scholars (CISS) hosted the 16th NAIST Tea Time for NAIST international and Japanese students. This event, as written in the NAIST Top Global University (TGU) project plan, was held as part of NAIST's mission to maintain a global campus and offer various support to the international community.
Being the first NAIST Tea Time of the New Year, it was thought appropriate to hold a traditional Japanese New Year's calligraphy event, or "Kakizome," where both Japanese students, who of course are accustomed to writing Chinese characters, and international students, some who are experienced Chinese character writers and some who are just starting to learn to write them in their Japanese language studies, can start their new year. Ms. Matsui, a Division of Materials Science staff member, volunteered to give a demonstration showing different calligraphy styles.
CISS advisor/coordinator Robert King first introduced the equipment used for Japanese calligraphy and the basics of calligraphy writing. Following this, Ms. Matsui invited the participants to come up and watch her as she wrote a few characters, starting first with a basic style and then slowly moving towards more artistic styles of writing. The students were impressed by the smooth way in which Ms. Matsui drew the characters and were surprised by how much the characters changed with each writing style.
After viewing the demonstration, the students broke into groups and began practicing different characters which included their names in Chinese characters, the characters for their countries' names and other ones they looked up on their smartphones. In each group of students there was a Japanese student that could explain character strokes or show how to write certain parts. Ms. Matsui and other NAIST staff members walked around to assist the students in learning to write and enjoy the calligraphy. Some experienced students knew how to write, but had very high standards and concentrated on drawing their characters very well and artistically. Other beginning students concentrated on remembering stroke orders and writing points. After practicing for about thirty minutes, the students were given paper cards to write their masterpieces and then they stamped their finished works with handmade NAIST stamps.
Finally, everyone enjoyed "zenzai," a red bean dessert with rice dumplings, and green tea. This is a traditional dessert that is often served in the winter to warm people up on cold days. The students discussed their experience and showed each other their work while trying this traditional Japanese dish.
Around 40 people gathered for this event and both Japanese and international students had fun concentrating on their writing skills while enjoying each other's company. We hope this was a good start for the students' New Year!