‘Kakizome’ explained: The Japanese tradition of writing New Year’s wishes

‘Kakizome’ explained: The Japanese tradition of writing New Year’s wishes‘Kakizome’ explained: The Japanese tradition of writing New Year’s wishes
via jgochenouer (CC BY 2.0)
Bryan Ke
January 1, 2024
Japanese people will soon write their wishes on paper using calligraphy, a tradition known as “kakizome” or “first writing.”
How it’s done: Kakizome involves people writing their wishes or goals for the upcoming year in calligraphy using kanji, a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters. Some examples include good health, peace, dreams or happiness.
The tradition is commonly practiced in the first few days of the new year, but it usually falls on Jan. 2. It is enjoyed by people of all ages across the country, with primary school students typically asked to write theirs during the winter holidays.
How it started: Originally practiced as a ceremonial event in the Imperial Court, kakizome became popular among common folks when temples started offering lessons during the Edo period between 1603 and 1868. Calligraphy became a mandatory part of the public education curriculum as instructed by the Japanese government in the Meiji Period between 1868 and 1912.
The tradition started with short poetry in calligraphy, with the writer expressing their aspirations for the new year and later burning the paper to have their hopes realized. In modern times, people use auspicious kanji characters for their wishes instead of writing more poetic lines.
Why it matters: Kakizome gives people the creative opportunity to reflect on themselves and envision what they want for the new year. As the practice requires intensive focus on brush strokes, it also serves as a moment of meditation.
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