Kakizome (書き初め)

Kakizome is a festival for calligraphy and drawing pictures, during which one uses brushes for the first time since the start of the new year. Usually, kakizome is held on January 2nd. Kakizome is also called "kissho," "shihitsu" or "hatsu-suzuri."

There used to be a custom of creating black ink out of an inkstick using wakamizu (the first water drawn from the well on New Year's Day) and writing Chinese and Japanese poems by facing the direction of eho (a favorable or lucky direction). One of the poems often used was a Chinese poem that read, 'Choseidenri ni shunju tomu, furomonzen nichigetsu ososhi,' celebrating the everlastingness of the emperor and singing about his perpetual youth and longevity. Kakizome was originally a ceremony held in the Imperial Court, but after the Edo period it became popular among ordinary citizens.

The calligraphy written in kakizome is burned in sagicho (a ritual bonfire of New Year's decorations); it is said that when the flame rises high into the air, the writer's skill will improve.

On January 5th of every year, the All Japan New Year Calligraphy Contest, an event of the calligraphy business hosted by the Nippon Budokan Foundation, which brings together approximately 4,000 participants, is held at the Nippon Budokan located in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; this event is broadcast nationwide through various media. This has become one of the special features of the New Year.