Fun and games at the Brighton & Hove Japanese Club Open Day


If you have children while living abroad, or you move with your kids to a country where a different language is spoken, how do you expose them to your native language?

One option is to join a club of people in the same situation. (Or, if there isn't a club, to start one!)

The Brighton & Hove Japanese Club runs a Saturday school for children from Japanese-speaking and bilingual families. The club exists to promote cultural exchange between Japan and the UK.

Every year they have a well-attended Open Day to celebrate the school's successes, and welcome visitors in to see what the club has to offer. And there's a LOT on offer.

I went along this year with my students again. Here's what we got up to!

The open day has two parts - workshops in the classrooms, and demonstrations and performances on the stage. The club makes really good use of the space, with lots to see and do.

We started with a calligraphy lesson, having a go at writing 春 (haru), the kanji for Spring:


Diligent students!


Dan likes a challenge, so he wrote the most difficult kanji he could think of: 鬱 (utsu).


This character means depression, or "low spirits", which is also how you might feel after trying to write a kanji with 29 strokes!


James showing off his handiwork:


Also, this is what I look like after half an hour doing calligraphy:

Excellent GIF by David.

Local calligraphy artist Takako Higgs was there too, with a stall of Japanese goods.


When she's not doing large-scale calligraphy demonstrations or teaching calligraphy, Takako sells beautiful Japanese goods, personalised with your name in Japanese.


Next, we headed into the main hall to see some of the shows.

It was jam packed!

The organisers had to get an extra pole so their video camera could see over the crowd.


Usually my favourite bit is the second-hand book stall where I pick up something I want to read (often pretending to myself I'll use it in class...)

But I was knew I was going to Japan the following week so I didn't buy any books this year.

I did however get this adorable Anpanman cookie!

I sat on him later and squashed him, but he still tasted great.

I also got some melon pan from this cute bakery stand.

("Gu choki pan ya" is the name of the bakery from the Ghibli film Kiki's Delivery Service).

And I bought some Japanese sweets to take home from the Cafe an-an stall.

(No photo of An-an's stall I'm afraid, I was too busy chatting to Noriko, the owner, to remember to take a picture).

While eating some of the sweet Japanese treats I'd bought, we watched the manga drawing contest.

The contestants were given the name of a manga character and had to draw them. The kids could peek at the screen, but the adults had to draw from memory.

Two of the adults participating are professional manga artists, so that was fun too.

The event is presented in English and in Japanese, with speakers switching between languages.

This compere did a great job and was very funny, especially when doing the "big reveal" and having the contestants show their pictures.



We also watched a koto (Japanese harp) performance by Sakie Plunkett.


And some students had their portraits drawn by manga artists Inko and Chie Kutsuwada.

Here Inko hard at work:


 And the finished result!

 As is tradition, we went for a quick half of ビール (beer) and/or コーラ (cola) in the パブ (pub) afterwards, to show off everything we'd made, bought and eaten.
It was a relaxed, nice day out.

I always meet someone new and interesting at the Open Day, and the organisers are very friendly and welcoming.

Why don't you come along next year?

Find out more about the Brighton & Hove Japanese Club on their website (click here).

More links:



Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 4) - Uchiyama Kenichi


Welcome to Part 4 of Calligraphers of Instagram, and this week we're keeping things super simple with Uchiyama Kenichi.

The Japanese way of giving names is to put the family name (Uchiyama) first, and then the given name (Kenichi).

That's the Japanese way, so I'll keep it that way too.

Also, I have a friend with exactly the same name, so I'll call my friend Kenichi Uchiyama and the calligrapher Uchiyama Kenichi. It keeps things simple.

Uchiyama is a designer from Yokohama, Japan.

He posts clean, minimalist Japanese handwriting on a separate handwriting Instagram account.

I'm not even sure if you can call it calligraphy, it's so gloriously simple. But he's got nice handwriting, and I love having it in my feed.

↓ こんにちは konnichiwa ("hello!")



Challenge time!

Can you read these next three?









Did you get it? These are the three Japanese "alphabets": ひらがな hiragana, カタカナ katakana, and 漢字 kanji. Each is written in its own alphabet, of course.

What I love most though is Uchiyama's series of Japanese placenames:

↓ 北海道 Hokkaido



↓ 名古屋市 Nagoya-shi (Nagoya city)



I love the balance and simplicity in his writing. It's not big or ostentatious. It has a quiet confidence, I think.

Follow Uchiyama Kenichi (or Kenichi Uchiyama!) on his writing-only Instagram account at @u.handwriting

Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 3) - Isawo Murayama


Hello and welcome to the third instalment of "Calligraphers of Instagram", where I introduce amazing artists making Japanese calligraphy - and sharing it online.

Isawo Murayama is a busy mum-of-four who makes time to create new pieces daily.

Her work feels a bit like a diary - together with her descriptive Instagram captions, her calligraphy offers up a little slice of her day-to-day life.

Traditional Japanese calligraphy uses a brush which is dipped into ink, but Murayama uses a 筆ペン (fude-pen) or "brush pen" to write.

A brush pen is like a fountain pen with a soft nib. It handles like a pen, but writes like a brush.

I love her stories and the little explanations behind her words, as well as the bold, small lettering.

In this first one she talks about the importance of two words: ごめん "sorry" and ありがとう "thank you".
ごめんと言える勇気とありがとうと言える素直さと。
Gomen to ieru yuuki to arigatou to ieru sunao-sa to.
The courage to say sorry, and the grace to say thank you.


Some of her posts are like little motivational speeches:
自分を信じることから始めよう。
Jibun o shinjiru koto kara hajimeyou.
"Start by believing in yourself."
I really like the juxtaposition of big thoughts on small paper here.



As well as telling stories about her kids in her captions, Murayama also writes powerfully about the advice she would like to give her younger self:
あなたを思ってくれる人はたくさんいる / 気づいて... /心...ひらいて
Anata o omotte kureru hito wa takusan iru / kizuite / kokoro hiraite
"There are lots of people who care about you / Realise this... / Open your heart"

Isn't that lovely?

You can find Isawo Murayama (@isaisa5963) on Instagram here, or read more on her (Japanese-language) blog.

Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 2) - Mitsuru Nagata


Mitsuru Nagata was born in Kyoto, and works extensively in Spain. His work combines elements of calligraphy with sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) techniques.

He performs at "live-painting" events, where he produces huge calligraphy paintings in front of a live audience.

These large-scale performances are often at festivals:


I love the simplicity of Nagata's work, like this stunning commission, with the traditional thatched roof home in the background:
おかえりなさい (o kaeri nasai) "Welcome home"
(Calligraphy is a good opportunity to get your eyes used to vertical writing, too!)

A post shared by Mitsuru Nagata (@nagatayakyoto) on

If hiragana's not your thing, there's plenty of complex kanji to get your teeth into too.

Like this new year's post, with a pug for the year of the dog (2018):
謹賀新年 (kinga shinnen) "Happy New Year"


I love the movement in these videos, and the combination of precision brushwork and watery ink.

This one's a promo for one of Nagata's live performances in Spain - a beckoning cat saying おいでね! (oide ne!) "Please come!"


Follow Mitsuru Nagata (@nagatayakyoto) on Instagram, or find out more on his website.


Read more in this series: Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 1) - @yogai888emi

Calligraphers of Instagram (bonus pun!) - @yogai888emi again


I can't believe I wrote an entire blog post about calligrapher @yogai888emi and forgot to include this amazing pun.

タイ料理が食べタイ

tai ryouri ga tabe-tai

"I want to eat Thai food."

What's the Japanese word for "Thai?" it's タイ tai.

And how do you say "want to eat" in Japanese? You stick -tai on the end of the verb.

It's funny, right?

Cute, too ♡

Calligraphers of Instagram (Part 1) - @yogai888emi


I absolutely love kanji - Chinese characters that are also used in Japanese writing.

But calligraphy is not my strong point. My writing is good, but not particularly beautiful.

I have, however, recently become slightly obsessed with instagrammers who post Japanese calligraphy photos.

So I thought it might be fun to share some with you!

I first discovered @yogai888emi via this adorable story about falling asleep on the train.

↓ Look at those lovely clean lines. I immediately had serious handwriting envy.

A post shared by 恵美・曄涯 (@yogai888emi) on

Can you read this one?
↓ 掃除 (souji) "cleaning"


If kanji's not your thing, you can find beautiful hiragana and katakana on her page too.

↓ ハナゲ (hanage) "nose hair"



There are videos, too, if you like watching calligraphy. I do - I find it strangely relaxing.

↓ 煮える (nieru) to boil, to be cooked. This one's from the height of summer!



You can find heaps more of her work at @yogai888emi's instagram page. I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I do.

Just looking at calligraphy won't make your handwriting more beautiful though - unfortunately!