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Foreign tourists try their hand at Edo culture with Asakusa calligraphy workshop

Urvashi Chowdhary, right, visiting from the United States, tries her hand at Kantei-style calligraphy at a workshop at Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center in Tokyo's Taito Ward on April 25, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center, located across the street from Senso-ji temple's famed "Kaminarimon" (Thunder Gate) in the capital's Taito Ward, has begun a project for foreign visitors to connect with Edo period culture through calligraphy workshops.

The style of calligraphy taught at the center is called "Kantei" style, which is used to write the names of kabuki actors on signs hung outside theaters. The style is known for its thick lines and round corners, and is said to bring about good luck. The style developed alongside kabuki theater during the Edo period.

According to the Taito Ward Government, the number of foreign tourists that visited the area, whose popular spots also include the Nakamise shopping street, rose to some 8.3 million people in 2016 -- more than four times the number of visitors recorded in 2008. But those who come to visit the ward aren't just interesting in seeing the sights, but more and more are interested in participating in experience-style events.

That's why the local government decided to offer "opportunities for tourists to more deeply experience Edo period culture," and planned the Kantei calligraphy workshop. With cooperation from a Kantei-style calligraphy group active in Taito Ward, the workshop began being held every second and fourth Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the tourist center. Participation is free of charge, and those who attend can even have their masterpieces turning into commemorative postcards.

On April 25, while receiving pointers from workshop instructors, tourists from China and the U.S. wrote the characters for "wind," "flower" and "happiness" in the special calligraphy style. Urvashi Chowdhary, visiting from the U.S. with her sister, told the Mainichi Shimbun they were sightseeing around Kyoto and Tokyo, and that this was her first time trying calligraphy. She said she found using the brush difficult.

"We would like to bring the experience of Edo period culture closer for tourists through a style of calligraphy that brings out the personality of each individual," said a representative in charge of the program at the center.

(Japanese original by Shohei Kawamura, Tokyo Bureau/City News Department)

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