Saturday, March 21, 2009


In Japan stamps are very important. Everyone has a stamp that they use for official documents. They are registered at city hall and you use them on bills, to open bank accounts, or even to sign up for a gym membership. My Japanese friends were astonished to know that we just sign our names in the States. "But anyone can sign your name, right?" Well, umm, yeah, but we don't have cool kanji to make up our stamps.

In fact my official stamp is just my initials - JK. It stays at the Board of Education with my boss because she "signs" documents for me on a regular basis so I only take it with her permission and a promise to return it safely soon after using it.

But luckily for me they use stamps for more than just official documents. The kids make stamps out of erasers at school and then use them to make bookmarks and the like. And calligraphers have their own stamps that they stamp their masterpieces with. I am recently the proud owner of 3 stamps featuring my name.

One was made for me by the fourth grade teacher at one of my schools. It's my name in hirgana carved into an eraser (the one at the bottom.) I was so excited and elated when she gave it to me. I've used it on cards and letters I've sent home and I have plans to stamp the geocache logbooks I find with it.

The other two are made from stone by my calligraphy sensei. He carved them himself and stamped our work for us yesterday before we left, one in romaji (on the top) and one in katakana (in the middle; this is how my name looks normally when written in Japanese.) I'm not sure I thanked him properly I was so excited. I'm going to have to go on a letter writing frenzy or practice my calligraphy some more so I can get the most use out of my shiny new stamps.

Traditionally this should be in red ink, but I only have a pink stamp pad at the moment.

My latest attempt at calligraphy - sakura or cherry blossom.

This kanji was harder than the last one I tried. I feel like I got the tree radical on the left alright but the woman radical on the right, while I can write it just fine with a pencil, is much harder with a brush. I'm also thinking too Western and write it with left to right in mind rather than right to left, which is how kanji is written. So my name should really be on the other side of the board. Oh well. I still like it. I imagine it looks like a woman sitting under a cherry tree while the pink petals shower down on her.

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