- SHOHA HIDAI    Calligrapher of the line full of light -



1. Marriage


This photo was taken at the Yato Bridge of Motomachi, Yokohama.

Yasuko married to Nankoku Hidai in 1948, on the recommendation of Shokin. In 1945 Nankoku wrote ‘Den-no-Variation’ (Spirit line 1, Lightning -Variation), the first avant-garde work apart from the characters for the first time in history of calligraphy, showed it the following year, and created a sensation in the calligraphic world. Then he determined to open up the way of Sho with assurance and started to experiment in the realization of Sho Art without the characters. They located their new home at Hayama at first, and Nankoku quitted the job of Kokudo-Chiri-In in order to devote himself to Sho. And then he moved to Yamamasu's house in Yokohama, where he established Yokohama Seihan Kenkyujo (Yokohama Precision Plate-Making Company), which was the plate-making business putting his technical skill in printing and photo type process to use. He faithfully followed Tenrai’s maxim that an artist had to make a living from a different job in order to pursue his own art independently.

2. Support Nankoku

Support Nankoku

At the meeting place, from the left Saisui Ishibashi, Suikin Amano, Shoha, Nankoku, Suiho Kuwahara, and Yukei Tejima.

Yamamasu family was the family of earnest and pious Christians, and Mother, Mariko took the lead in the home. Yasuko’s family life was lively with visitors and Christian gatherings. Nankoku was hard to get along with others by nature, and the type of a man working by himself, but Shoha understood Nankoku’s character and she was concerned about his voluntary activities.

Nankoku went on inquiring into Sho Art with Shoha, and he exhibited Shoha’s works in his first one-man show (at Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, 1956) together, and also he made Shoha participate in some discussions with other calligraphers. Nankoku continued his work brilliantly, becoming the focus of attention in calligraphic world as Son of Tenrai, or as Champion of avant-garde calligraphy. For example, his planning and project of “Avant-Garde Calligraphy Exhibition in Memory of Tenrai Hidai’ (in 1956), ‘Japan Avant-garde Calligraphy Exhibition’ (in 1958), ‘Exhibition of Representative Avant-garde Calligraphers’(in 1958), and so on. Shoha supported Nankoku’s activities, such as communications with the calligraphic world and assistance of his projects, and devoted herself to the stable living. She was an active person; for example, when Mother, Mariko invented the substitute absorbent cotton, she assisted her mother in spreading mother’s business. Shoha’s activity and her generous personality were the anchorage of Nankoku’s inward rest.

3.Nankoku’s first visit to the U.S.

Nankoku’s first visit to the U.S.

The aerogram from Shoha to Nankoku, reached on December 24. The postage stamp of the left end was the commemorative stamp of the imperial wedding (the present Emperor).
※Click/Tap the image to see the enlarged image.

On November in 1959, Nankoku first visited to the U.S. at invitation of Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design in San Francisco. At that time before the liberalization of a foreign voyage in Japan ( 1964), traveling abroad was limited strictly, such as the restriction of traveling purpose and the limits of carrying dollars. The issue of the visa was also severe, and the complicated formalities of application and the certificate of bank balance were required. Nankoku left Haneda to San Francisco by way of Honolulu, so it was a long flight trip. Nankoku’s stay in America lasted for one year and a half during his first visit to the U.S. (until April in 1961). He gave a lecture and workshop at Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design and held his one-man shows in San Francisco, and also communicated with a variety of persons and opened his one-man shows in New York.

Nankoku left Japan for the first time, and he could express his own self honestly and openly, as a human being, and as an artist, regardless of the title or the formality. Nankoku asserted that the essence of the art of calligraphy was the line expression which depended on a disciplined brush-stroke, and its line expression manifested the artist’s humanity. The greatest result from his first trip to the U.S. was that Nankoku’s assertion had been confirmed evidently. The essence of Sho Art was liberated from the meaning of the character or from the literary profundity, and it belonged in the line expression by itself. Nankoku felt encouraged by American people bringing about the candid and fertile line expressions.

The air-male letters between Shoha and Nankoku during one year and a half's stay in the U.S. amounted to a hundred. These letters are well preserved without being scattered and lost. While Nankoku wrote to Shoha the report of his illness on the unfamiliar place, the necessaries for his one-man show or workshop, Shoha took care of some medicine or his health, and wrote recipes for his party’s cooking, and also reported the growth of their children or conditions of their friends and acquaintances. Shoha endeavered to share time with Nankoku. She wrote to him by aerogram almost every day, or a couple of letters a day as the case may be. Finally Nankoku returned to Japan at Shoha’s repeated requests.

4. Activities of Shoha

Activities of Shoha

Nihon Joryu Daihyo Sho-ten (Japan Representative of Women Calligrapher Exhibition) in 1967. In the center of the second row from the front, Tsuneko Kumagai between two men, and Shoha above the left man.

Shoha served as judge at Mainichi Shodo-ten (Mainichi Calligraphy Exhibition) in 1959 when Nankoku first visited to the U.S. In 1961, she proposed to Shogakuin Dojin (Members of Shogakuin ) that they should hold “Tenrai Igyo-ten” (Exhibition of Tenrai Hidai's Works and Legacy), and devoted herself to its planning and managing. (The next year, the exhibition was held at Takashimaya.) Before Nankoku's second trip to the U.S., he filmed by an 8 mm movie camera the writing actions of eminent calligraphers, such as Sokyu Ueda, Yukei Tejima, Suiho Kuwahara, Yasushi Nishikawa, Joryu Matsui, and Tsuneko Kumagai. Shoha took part in the film show, and participated in the occasion of the big brush performance at Yushima Temple as manager, where Nankoku filmed Shiryu Morita, Sofu Okabe, and Nankoku himself.


ShokeikaiAbove the front Shoha, Soho Terashita, and above her, Shotei Oikawa.

Shoha also continued to hold “Hidai Tenrai Kinen Zen’eisho-ten” (Avant-garde Calligraphy Exhibition in Memory of Tenrai Hidai), and she made its planning, opened Exihibtion, and showed her works, in cooperation with Shogakuin Dojin. And moreover, in 1964 Shoha started ‘Shokeikai’ as the stage for the pursuit of her own Sho Art and for the exhibition of her works. The members of Shokeikai were Shotei (Hatsue) Oikawa, Ikuko Nakajima, Rokin Mizushima, Kinwa Matsubara, and so on. Also Shoha was recommended for the director of the established ‘Kana-shodo Sakka-kyokai’ (Kana-calligraphy Artist Association). When Otei Kaneko organized ‘Sogen-shodokai’ in 1965, Shoha became a member of its directors and judges, then showed her works in the annual “Sogen Exhibition”. ‘Sogen-shodokai’ inquired Sho Art for writing the modern literary works that anyone could read, such as works with mixed Kanji-Kana by spoken language, free verse, tanka, translated poems etc. In 1967, Shoha was inducted into a member of the steering committee in “Mainichi Joryu-ten” (Mainichi Women Calligraphers Exhibition), and showed her work in the first Exhibition. Shoha played the active part in calligraphic world remarkably, as the representative of women calligraphers in Japan.

In 1969, Nankoku restarted publishing by Shogakuin : Shoha managed their publications in cooperation with Nankoku, who devoted himself to republishing Tenrai’s long-waited works, and the old rare Japanese and Chinese calligraphy books.


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