The title of this book offers a huge hostage to fortune, for Japanese calligraphy is anything but simple and to suggest that it might be is to reduce it pretty much out of existence.
This is intended to be a project-based craft book of the kind that offers simple and colourful demonstrations that the beginner can easily follow and which presents a result which is sufficiently seductive that the reader will always feel they have a chance of emulating, however tentative their initial steps. There are plenty of books such as this and their continued appearance indicates a popularity that suggests that the approach works, so we shouldn’t damn them with accusations of triviality.
The problem that this book has, however, is that, as well as showing some very attractive ideas, it also needs to go at some length into the formation of actual characters in several different scripts and this takes up a third of its length. Already, we’re into a more specialist area and, while I can see the value of being able to write Happy Birthday or Happy Halloween correctly, some of the details of the order of brushstrokes and the characters for unexplained voiced sounds seem just a little more than is necessary in a book essentially aimed at the beginner or, dare I say it?, the dilettante.
There’s no getting away from the fact that any calligraphic letter-form book is always going to look worthy and unexciting and this aspect seems to jar with the colourful and imaginative projects that occupy the last half of the book are which are the reason, I rather think, that you might consider buying it. None of this might matter if the book had had a title which suggested that it was more than something for the beginner, but then I’d be complaining that it wasn’t comprehensive enough. No, it can’t win, but I think that’s more the fault of the format that it is mine for being picky.