Writing Samurai is a step-by-step online Creative Writing Course

Writing Samurai is a step-by-step online Creative Writing Course for primary-age students, designed to help them develop excellent language and writing skills. The lessons focus on composition techniques and strategies using a narrative approach to ensure that students write clearly and concisely, while keeping their compositions interesting and captivating.

The Samurai were a prominent part of Japanese history, and it is thought that their invention of the portable writing technology, known as the yatate, helped to spread literacy throughout Japan. Initially, the yatate was invented by samurai to record battles and tax payments to their lords or generals (Marshall, 2009; Deal, 2007). The portable yatate also influenced Japanese literary works.

Early samurai scribbled in their calligraphy boxes but it was a cumbersome and time-consuming process to assemble the box in the field during war or when travelling. This may have inspired the portable yatate which was designed to carry an ink stone and brush, along with a water dropper for refilling the ink, making it a more convenient option.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), the portable yatate resembled a dipper, with a larger ink retainer and a long hollow handle that could hold a brush or a slim knife to scrape away ink. Woodblock prints of commoners carrying yatate during this period are evidence of their popularity among merchants, peasants and other civilians.

The portable yatate was used to write the words of Shintoism, as well as to record pilgrimages and sketch images from these journeys. It was also a popular tool among merchants to record the sale of their goods and services, which allowed them to expand their business.

In the mid-eighteenth century, samurai, merchants and peasants became increasingly interested in writing and literature, and the yatate helped to spread literacy through these groups. It was also used by artists to record their work, and was considered a major contribution to the art of Japan (Jewel, 1998; Kato, 1997).

It is not clear who invented the yatate but it is believed to have been developed by samurai during the Kamakura period. The portable yatate displaced the traditional calligraphy box set and became a standard writing device in the Japanese court. The yatate was also the primary writing device of samurai soldiers during war, and was a powerful tool that helped them to document their battles and land transactions to their shoguns or lords.

The yatate was eventually replaced by Western fountain pens during Meiji (1868-1912). This revolutionised Japan’s writing system, opening up Japan to international trade and modernization. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Japan’s literacy rate was forty percent and had risen significantly from its tenth century high of ninety-five percent (Easterlin, 2000).

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