Japanese University Students Take Letter-Writing Assignment to Next Level

Education Art

Students at a Kyoto art school go to extremes in completing a homework assignment, much to the pleasure of their professor.

Students at Kyoto City University of Arts have turned a seemingly straightforward assignment into an exhibition of personal expression. Tajima Tatsuya, a professor at the university, wanted his class to contemplate the past when he asked his students to write letters expressing the vicissitudes of earlier artists. Taking the assignment to heart, students began mimicking earlier writing mediums, turning their assignment into ancient replicas.

“It all started with a student writing a letter on a porcelain plate,” recounts Tajima. The message started at the center with “Dear Sir” and slowly spiraled toward the outer edge of the dish. That was in 2020 and since then the situation has only escalated.

Examples of the students’ ingenuity include a letter in the style of a prewar telegram, another rendered in hieroglyphics on papyrus, and yet another scribbled onto thin wood shavings.

Tajima says he is pleased with the results of the exercise. “I felt it would be valuable to future art research,” he explains. “As a contemporary art historian myself, I wanted to leave it as an example for others in the field down the road.”

Tajima says there are plans to put on an exhibit of his students’ works.

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on February 15, 2023.)


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