Hiroko Namikawa's weekly classes in Dubai have been drawing people from various nationalities

Once the privilege of the Japanese noble women and deeply shrouded in mystery, Japan's art of calligraphy is today enjoyed by many aficionados. Hiroko Namikawa, who was fascinated by its beauty and grace at age six, is delighted to teach and encourage others to learn "Sho doh" - as this unique art form is called in Japanese - at the weekly classes in her residence.

Her first batch two-and-half years ago comprised only Japanese, but today the group includes nationals from Lebanon, Korea and Egypt. Japanese schoolchildren residing in Dubai love to take classes with her as well. "In Japan, depending on the schedules of the school, some "Sho doh" courses are introduced to children as young as the primary class and then as adults one can choose to learn this art formally," she says. "A fleeting glance at the elegant letters will capture your attention for life."

Hiroko dips her brush into the sumi - the special black ink made with charcoal - and glides it over the stark white sheet of Japanese paper to make beautiful characters.

She draws the straight lines with firm and clear strokes while the curved lines look delicate. "These are the graceful Hiragana characters which flow like a river." The characters can be made large or small by using different sizes of brushes, thus creating a dramatic yet serene effect. "When people attend my workshops, they want to learn how to write haiku poetry, old songs or proverbs using Japanese calligraphy. I encourage them to explore each character and eventually adopt an individual style. The rhythm this process brings to the work makes the piece alive," she sats.

Hiroko teaches the katakana and traditional kanji scripts, but she says that the Hiragana is popular among most learners in Dubai.

"It's not only about good handwriting," says Hiroko. Japanese calligraphy means much more to her than just a form of elegance and beauty. "It's a chance for me to gather my thoughts, focus within and is similar to a moving meditation." She believes that when people practice Japanese calligraphy, the mind moves along with the brush to a higher mental level that actually calms and settles one down.

All the instruments like the papers, inks, brushes, seals and wells for her classes or for personal use are imported from Japan.

Hiroko says that a type of Chinese paper that is available in Dubai can be a good substitute, but the special sumi inks and seals are only available in Japan. "Those who want to continue practicing the art can obtain them from my supply at actual expenses."