Kanō shihan calligraphy on the power of education – The Kanō Chronicles Oct 2022

Examples of the calligraphy of Kanō shihan are abundant. Beyond a number of apparent fakes available (some pretty accurate simulations of a number of his different writing styles), Kanō offered to and did brush any number of calligraphy 掛け軸 kakejiku hanging scrolls and other materials for jūdō dōjō opening ceremonies, decorations for established dōjō and individuals (most often when overseas), and for other occasions. The overseas calligraphies of Kanō are notable in that most lack the red-inked seals he normally used while creating calligraphy at home in Japan.

I find one in particular very striking. In it Kanō shihan speaks of the importance of education and its ability to affect a “thousand far generations”.


The difficulty of roughly dating Kanō’s calligraphy, as they are seldom dated, is considerably eased by his use of pen names, names he changed over time at significant ages. On this calligraphy, Kanō shihan’s pen name is written by the three small vertical characters on the far left of the scroll, 進乎斎 followed below by two seals stamped in read ink.

The three pen names Kanō shihan used were: 「甲南」・「進乎斎」・「帰一斎」. This is marked with the second, which is a reference to a tale 2500 years old……

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Kanō shihan’s First 35 Years – The Kanō Chronicles

Recently I provided an essay to the Asiatic Society of Japan, the “oldest learned society in Japan” of which I am a member. See https://www.asjapan.org for an introduction to the Society.

It was founded in Yokohama in 1872, when Kanō Jigorō was only 12 years old and had just moved to the new Japanese capital ofTokyo with his family. By 1888 Kanō was one of the first Japanese members, and became a member of the first Japanese board of advisors. The Society membership was like a Who’s Who of a wide range of Japanese and Asias diplomacy, science, natural history, languages, cultures, and more.

The essay was provided to the Society’s Transactions 134 years after Kanō and a colleague at the Gakushin where Kanō was the vice-principal gave a lecture in 1888 then a demonstration of his new jūdō, making it one of if not the first known demonstration of jūdō to a foreign audience.

Later I made this presentation based on the essay, and gave it to an informal group of Japan-centric academics called Informasia.

Please enjoy, and let me know if you have questions or comments.

Lance Gatling
Author / Lecturer
The Kanō Chronicles
Tokyo, Japan
Contact@kanochronicles.com – please send a note to give us feedback.
Thank you!