Yosemoji & the Shaping of ‘Wa’ Essentially Japanese calligraphy

Date: 9 December 2008-30 January 2009 (Closed 25 December 2008 – 4 January 2009)
Venue: Embassy of Japan, 101-104 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7JT
Fee: Free

An exhibition of work by Tachibana Umon, Special Advisor for Cultural Exchange, Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Edo-moji (lit. Edo lettering) are a group of related styles of Japanese brush calligraphy developed for advertising amidst the flourishing urban mercantile culture of the Edo period (1600-1868 CE). These forms of sign-writing are characterised by the use of broad, curved and tightly-packed brush strokes. Although these styles are applied to the Chinese characters/writing system used in the Japanese language, Edo-moji originated in Japan and have come to represent, and define, certain ideas of what is considered uniquely ‘Japanese’.
Yose is a form of Japanese vaudeville theatre whereby a variety of acts will often complement star comic monologue performers. It has its origins in twelfth-century itinerant storytelling and gained considerable popularity from the eighteenth century onwards when makeshift theatre grew up all over the country, Even though now such live variety performances happen in only a few yose theatres around Japan, its influence is far-reaching and it lives on in popular television and radio broadcasts.
Yose-moji (lit. yose lettering) is the style of calligraphy used to promote yose performances, in particular rakugo (comic monologue), and has been an integral part of this world since the Edo period (1600-1868 CE). It has been developed and refined by generations of master calligraphers throughout its history and its bold style is intended to draw attention to rakugo events being employed in the making of signs, posters, flyers, banners, tickets, programmes, books and even CD covers.
Yose can be literally translated as ‘to attract an audience’, and this is reflected in the way the yose-moji style is shaped. The broad brush strokes afford little negative space between the lines within the characters and this is meant to represent the very few, if any, empty seats one would hope for in a full house.

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