Mizai Sho

Many members of Japan Fans are creative with black ink, so we regularly browse the internet for inspiring examples. Via Instagram, we came across “Mizai Sho”, the calligraphy of Japanese-Canadian calligraphy artist Yoko Watanabe. In this virtual exhibition, you will learn more about her life and work. Enjoy!

I am originally from Japan and currently living in BC, Canada. Since I moved here from Japan, I have become more aware of the beauty of my own culture. It is funny that you do not really see it when you are right in the middle of it!

Martial arts play a big part in my life. I strongly believe that it makes you a better person, makes you more humble and makes you want to  try to improve yourself on anything in your life, if you have the right guidance and right attitude.

合気道 Aikido, 剣道 Kendo, 柔道 Judo and so on, they always have 道 Do, “The Way”.

書道 Shodo “Japanese Calligraphy”  has also 道 Do, and it is not something you can “get” in a short period of time.

Then my shop’s name “Mizai Sho” – 未在 Mizai means that “You have not reached there.” “It is not there yet.”, and I translate this  as “There is no goal or ending in your training or  “Shugyo”. You can always try and improve.”.

I feel extremely fortunate to have this little shop. I combine all of my important background for this shop,  and I really hope that I can make as many people as possible happy with my products.”

Enso circle, Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
Enso circle on a brown Kakejiku hanging scroll
A customer wanted a simple Enso art for her Aikido training room and also meditation room

“I was born and raised in Kanagawa, Japan, and came to Canada for the first time when I was in mid-20s. I used to teach Japanese in Tokyo and wanted to teach somewhere outside of Japan and chose Canada. I did not know anyone, did not have a place to stay or any teaching job at the beginning, but I just fell in love with this beautiful city, Vancouver.”

Bushido, Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
武士道 BUSHIDO on a black canvas
I used gold paint to write Bushido on a black canvas.

“I managed to get a teaching position shortly after and spent the first year teaching Japanese. I went back to Japan after a year but came back to Canada as a landed immigrant two years later to officially move here. I have been living here since then.”

Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
“Seven Virtues of Bushido” on a paper Kakejiku hanging scroll

“I did not start practicing calligraphy again until much later (I was working at an English school in Vancouver as a Japanese marketing coordinator for a while) although I learned calligraphy when I was a child in Japan. I always liked writing something but never thought of doing calligraphy to show people or having a Japanese calligraphy shop!”

Enso circle, Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
Gold Enso circle on black calligraphy paper by Mizai Sho.
“This piece was liked by many people and went to a new home right after I posted a photo of this!”

“I found an excellent Dojo 18 years ago and started practicing Aikido there. That changed a lot of things in my life. I used to practice Kendo when I was a high school student and we practiced REALLY HARD back then, so I might have been missing doing martial arts or missing doing something related to my culture when I found this Dojo.”

忍 scroll on a Kakejiku hanging scroll, by Mizai Sho.
忍 scroll on a Kakejiku hanging scroll, by Mizai Sho.
The top character reads 忍 NIN or SHINOBI, and the rest is about Ninja Spirit

“Anyway, I started going to the Dojo regularly and got really into it, thanks to my teacher and fellow students. I, then, started making Nafuda, the nameplates/nameboards, for the Dojo using Sumi ink and my calligraphy brush. Some students started asking me to make calligraphy art pieces so that they can use them as a gift for Sensei or for themselves.”

Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
一期一會 on a blue Kakejiku hanging scroll
ICHIGO ICHIE “One chance, one meeting” is a very popular and well-known phrase.
This is also my favourite saying.

“I really enjoyed all that and started thinking of starting a calligraphy shop for (mainly) martial artists as I can communicate with them using the same language – the martial arts language. Some customers later on mentioned that they were very pleased working with me as it was easy for them to explain what they wanted (especially when they were not sure about the words they would like to be calligraphed) to me or they enjoyed talking about the passion of their training with me.”

Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
SHU HA RI “First learn, then detach and finally transcend.”
On a Shikishi board with beautiful wave patterned hanging scroll

“As for the current and the future project, I just try to focus on each order that comes in regularly while I take care of my family, do the house work, exercise so that I can get back on Aikido training when we are allowed to go back after COVID and help my kid with, well, a lot of things. I have some phrases/words/expressions I would like to write hopefully in the near future, and I also have a small dream that I have my calligraphy art displayed at a nearby art café so that more people have a chance to know about Japanese calligraphy. Hopefully my dream comes true!”

Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
一期一會 ICHIGO ICHIE “One chance, one meeting” in gold on a Shikishi board
Japan Fans virtual exhibition by Mizai Sho.
Apart from being a calligrapher, Yoko is also an aikido sensei! ^_^

If you like Yoko’s work, be sure to check out her Instagram en Etsy-shop! ^_^ And if you like Japanese calligraphy, LANKA‘s work might also interest you. Are you (or do you know) an artist who is inspired by Japan and would like to have a virtual exhibition on this website? Please contact Martine.