Apart from learning Japanese language, I've also started learning Japanese calligraphy (書道). I have a question about 草書 style (cursive style in English?) calligraphy.

Most 草書 style kanji seem unintelligible to me as they look very different to more readable normal 楷書 or 行書 styles. Can an average Japanese person read 草書 style? If yes, do they learn it (in school or elsewhere)?

As a sample, I'll include one of my attempts - sorry for not best quality and teacher's markings. Can that be understood by an average Japanese person?

enter image description here

Note: my question is not about what is written above. It's a question about readability of 草書 style in general.

1 Answer 1


An average Japanese person -- however that should be defined -- can indeed read an amount of 草書-style calligraphy, but it may not be a large amount because it is usually not taught in school.

An average person as myself just picks it up from his exposure to handwritten Japanese around him like in his house, school and even on the street. He learns the 草書 characters one by one and do so almost randomly. How much each person gets to learn depends on his curiosity and, importantly, his overall kanji knowledge. Those who do not pay attention to the stroke order are the ones that struggle the most with 草書.

If I can read that calligraphy of yours, that would mean almost any Japanese could, too, because I am so miserably average. It says 「花鳥風月」, right?

In the near future, though, there might appear a new generation of kids in Japan who could not read any 草書 because the amount of handwritten things around us has been decreasing greatly in this computer age.

  • Thank you for the explanation. Yes, it is 「花鳥風月」 indeed.
    – Szymon
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 21:32

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