Saving 'woman hand': the artist rescuing female-only writing

Kana let women express themselves freely and was used to write the world’s first novel – then it was wiped out. Meet the master calligrapher keeping the script alive

Anyone who has ever fired off a text in haste will sympathise with the first point on 11th-century Japanese writer Sei Shōnagon’s list of “infuriating things”: “Thinking of one or two changes in the wording after you’ve sent off a reply to someone’s message.”

This list, her messages, and her Pillow Book in which they’re recorded – a sparklingly acerbic, blog-style frolic through the lives of Heian-era aristocrats – were written using kana, a Japanese script mainly used by women for nearly a millennium to write literature, arrange secret assignations and express themselves freely within the confines of court life.

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