Akemi was born in Mito, a small town in Yamaguchi Prefecture. At the age of eight, her mother enrolled her in Calligraphy school to improve her writing, which had been affected by her loss of sight in her left eye. She was a sensitive and empathetic child, and from a young age, felt the transience of life and was drawn to the Zen philosophy behind calligraphy. She embraced the world of calligraphy and embarked on a lifelong journey of learning under the tutelage of Master Seizan Fujimoto, whose lineage can be traced back to a well-known calligrapher of the Meiji period, Meikaku Kusakabe. At the age of sixteen, she started learning the style of Goseki Nishiwaki through the Bunka Calligraphy Association in Tokyo, over time, learning diverse styles of calligraphy used by other well-known calligraphers. At the age of 24, Akemi was qualified as a calligraphy teacher and was given the name “Koshu” (“Red Autumn”) by her master Seizan.
In 1992, Akemi travelled to the UK to study English, and upon her return, set up a Calligraphy and English Language school called “Dream House”. She continued her training in brush painting, seal carving, scroll making, and earned professional qualifications in certificate-form calligraphy and pen calligraphy. Through her comprehensive training, she developed a unique writing style known as the “Hakufu technique” (3D writing).
In 2001, with a heavy heart she relocated to England with her one-year-old daughter to follow her late husband’s last wishes, and made the decision to close her school and say goodbye to over 250 students. She found solace in her art, and a few years later, re-started her calligraphy courses in the UK as “Koshu Japanese Art”.
Since then, she has established herself as a Japanese Artist in the UK. As a teacher, she strives to bring out the unique qualities of each student through their art. Her influence has been felt by many of her pupils, with ten of them certified as Brush Calligraphy teachers and an additional eight qualified as Pen Calligraphy teachers through the Bunka Calligraphy Association in Tokyo.
As a student, Akemi followed the teachings of her mentor Seizan till his last breath, to hold onto the beginner’s mind and reflect a pure heart like the lotus flower. Building on her training in traditional calligraphy, she has developed a distinctive style of calligraphy and painting, that guides the viewer on a journey through her life, as each stroke embodies its own spirit. In her work, the ancient and the modern meet, and the eastern and western influences unite.
Further to her teaching school, Akemi been focused on showcasing her work in exhibitions, performing demonstrations, conducting workshops, and accepting commissioned projects. Recent highlights include designing the label for the craft Gin and Liqueurs brand Kokoro which received a Gold award for design in 2018. Her artworks were also used by the Rugby World Cup Awards in Tokyo in 2019, and by the Team GB for Tokyo Olympic 2020. In May 2021, she launched her first online sumi painting course with Domestika, and soon after, launched her second course. In 2022, Akemi also reopened her school Dream House in Japan, and will start organising day workshops and calligraphy retreats. Her artworks and courses are seen and loved internationally.
1995 Nov Koshu first solo exhibition in Mine-city, Yamaguchi, Japan
1995 Feb Joint exhibition at Gallery Nakano in Yamaguchi, Japan
1995 May Joint exhibition at Gallery Aka Renga in Yamaguchi, Japan
1995 Jul Koshu and her students’ exhibition at Dream House opening
1996 Feb Joint exhibition at Gallery Nakano in Yamaguchi, Japan
2001 Jun Calligraphy and Sumi Painting display at the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Celebration Art & Crafts exhibition in South Nutfield, Surrey, UK
2004 Feb Koshu solo exhibition “Sincerely From the Heart” at Bletchingley Central Gallery, Redhill, Surrey
2004 – 2006 Artwork display at a hotel lobby in East Croydon, Surrey
2013 Nov Koshu solo exhibition “Love and Dream” at Frameless Gallery, London. Coincided with the publication of “LOVE and DREAM” by Koshu
2014 Jul Artwork display at Art in Action, Oxford
2016 Jul Artwork display at Art in Action, Oxford
2016 Oct Koshu solo art exhibition “Heart of the lotus flower” at the former British Consulate in Shimonoseki, Japan, for the 110-year anniversary event
2017 Sep – Dec Artwork display at the “Calligraphers in Conversations” at the San Francisco Public Library
2019 Jul – Sep Koshu’s Solo Art Exhibition “ECHO” at the Shignagi Museum and National Museum in Georgia
2021 May- Jul Koshu’s exhibition at the Niko Pirosmani State Museum in Georgia, hosted by the Japanese Embassy in Georgia
2022 Mar – Apr Collective exhibition “Sponge” organised by David Greenslade at the Volcano Gallery in Swansea
2004 Apr Japanese calligraphy and painting lecture and demonstration at Lingfield, Surrey
2010 – 2012 Teaching calligraphy class bimonthly at Woldingham school, Surrey
2011 Oct Calligraphy and Japanese card-making making workshop at the students’ exhibition
2011 Started regular seal carving workshops
2013 May Calligraphy workshops for teachers, Japanese club and art students at Wavell school, Hampshire
2014 July Demonstrations at ‘Art in Action’, a four-day event held at the philosophy school in Waterperry, Oxfordshire
2014 Sep One-day Japanese calligraphy workshop for a group of English calligraphers in Kent
2014 Nov Workshops and demonstrations for two days at Anifest in University of Kent
2015 Feb School holiday workshops for kids to teach Japanese calligraphy, sumi painting and seal carving
2015 July Japanese calligraphy workshops for Japan day at Wavell School, Hampshire
2015 Nov Started sumi painting workshops a few times a month
2016 July Artwork display and demonstrations in sumi painting and Japanese calligraphy at ‘Art in Action’, a four-day event held at the philosophy school in Waterperry, Oxfordshire
2016 July Started sumi painting workshop in Caterham, Surrey
2016 Oct-Nov 7 different calligraphy and sumi painting workshops during Koshu’s exhibition at the former British consulate in Shimonoseki, Japan
2017 Mar Demonstration at the Martial Arts Charity Seminar, Fleet, Hampshire
2017 Apr Demonstration at the Martial Arts Charity Seminar, Guildford, Surrey
2017 Apr Demonstration at the Camberley Woman Institution, Camberley, Surrey
2017 Apr Demonstration and workshops at the Hanami Festival at the Brogdale Farm in Kent
2017 July – Aug Workshops at the former British Consulate in Shimonoseki, Japan
2017 Nov Demonstration at the Oakland Asian Cultural Centre, USA
2017 Nov Demonstration at the Calligraphy Day at the San Francisco Public Library, USA
2017 Dec Demonstration at the Karate Champion ship, London
2017 Dec Demonstration at the Hyoho nitten Ichiryu seminar, Basingstoke, Hampshire
2018 Mar Demonstration at the Martial Arts Charity Seminar in Fleet, Hampshire
2018 Apr Demonstrations and Workshops at the Hanami Festival in Blogdale, Kent
2018 Jun Workshops at a team build seminar (for 170 people) for a big Japanese Corporation in the UK
2018 Aug Workshops in Japan
2018 Sep Two-days of demonstrations and workshops at the Japanese Garden Cowden in Scotland
2018 Sep Demonstrations and workshops at Will Adams Festival in Kent
2018 Oct Demonstrations at the Georgian National Museum and other locations in Georgia for the “Tokugawa and the masters” event held by Japanese Embassy in Georgia
2018 Nov Demonstration at the Hyoko Nitten Ichiryu seminar in Basingstoke, Hampshire
2018 Dec Demonstration at the International Karate for mental health in Guildford, Surrey
2019 Apr Workshops at Dream House in Japan
2019 May Demonstration at London SAKE Challenge
2019 Jun Lecture and workshop at Tomlinscote Junior School in Camberley, Surrey
2019 Jul Demonstration at Niko Pilosmani Museum and Rustavi Theatre, and workshops and lecture at the Giolab in Tbilisi, Georgia
2019 Sep Lecture and demonstration at Cowden Japanese Garden in Scotland
2019 Sep Lecture and demonstration for Bonsai association in Kent
2020 July – Monthly online calligraphy and sumi painting workshops hosted by Hyper Japan
2021 May – Launch of Koshu’s online course with Domestika, ‘Introduction to Sumi-e Painting’
2021 Aug – Calligraphy and Sumi Painting demonstrations at Chiddingstone Castle
2021 Dec – Bookmark calligraphy for the Marugame Udon opening event, held at the O2
2022 Dec – Launch of Koshu’s second online course with Domestika, ‘Sumi-e Painting with Colour for Floral Illustrations’
2003 Students’ exhibition at Bletchingley Centre, Redhill, Surrey (20 artworks)
2011 Students’ exhibition at Miller Centre, Caterham, Surrey (42 artworks)
2016 Students’ exhibition at Bourne Hall, Epsom, Surrey (101 artworks)
The number of students attending Koshu’s weekly calligraphy classes has seen a significant increase in recent years, with more students seeking a greater challenge opting to take Japanese calligraphy grading exams through the Bunka Shodo-Gakkai in Tokyo. Currently, 60 students are working hard to achieve various grades in brush lettering and pen lettering calligraphy. Among them, some students have earned the “Dan” grade, 10 students have already earned the master’s qualification in brush calligraphy and 8 students in pen calligraphy. Despite the added challenge of learning calligraphy as a non-Japanese speaker, Koshu has been instrumental in supporting and challenging her students to reach their potential.
Since 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Koshu has started online lessons and workshops, and her courses are now appreciated by many students internationally.
1996 Sep A sign board for a Japanese pottery studio in Japan
2000 – 2002 Numerous certificate forms for the Nokyo Printing Company in Japan
2003 Aug A sign board for a Japanese chess school in Japan
2004 May A calligraphy and sumi painting artwork for a screen panel, as a part of a stage set in the UK
2004 Jun Several artworks after Koshu’s 2004 exhibition
2006 Feb A selection of calligraphy artworks for the brochures of See Woo Foods Limited, a Chinese food company in UK
2012 Jan 40+ bookmarks with employee names for Chugai Pharma UK Co
2012 Sep A calligraphy artwork with a poem for a client based in the Philippines
2012 Oct A calligraphy artwork for the brochures of Mitsubishi Motors UK
2014 May Title of film ‘Imphal 1944’ by Junichi Kajouka in both Japanese and English
2014 Jun Name cards for guest attending Libra Group Ltd conference dinner
2014 Jul Creating a seal with a dragon design for a client in Europe
2014 Oct Calligraphy artwork of a short poem written for an exhibition to celebrate Kado Ikenobo UK 553 years
2015 Apr Label artwork for gin bottle ‘Kokoro Gin’, which was honoured the Gold Award in Design in 2018
2017 Jan Creating seal artwork for a Canadian client
2017 Jul Sumi painting artwork of ‘Plum blossoms’ for a dental clinic in Richmond, London
2017 – 2018 Three album cover artworks for Musician ‘Lokki’
2018 Mar Title of film ‘Sugihara Survivors’
2018 Mar A selection of calligraphy and sumi painting artworks for the labels of ‘Kokoro Gin’ liqueurs
2019 Apr Calligraphy artwork for the new packaging of Yutaka Brand, Tazaki Food Ltd
2019 May Calligraphy, sumi painting and seal art for the 2019 Rugby Awards in Tokyo
2019 Jul Multi-media advertising campaign for the pain sponsor of the British team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic
2019 Oct Calligraphy and seal artwork for the Opera Stage in Austria
2020 Mar Several Calligraphy artworks for a performance ‘Ink Rain’ at the Georgian State Ballet Theatre
2020 Jul Logo Artwork for Shokunin Restaurant
2021 Mar 4 sumi painting artworks and 1 calligraphy artwork for Cowden Japanese Garden in Scotland
In 2011, Koshu was commissioned to paint the walls of a newly established Japanese restaurant, “Maki”, located in the popular residential town of Richmond, London. On one of the panels, she inscribed the character “Wa” which means “harmony”. On the other four panels, she wrote poems and haikus inspired by each of the four seasons, to create an atmosphere of unity. On the walls of the washrooms, Koshu painted a Japanese woman dressed in a traditional kimono surrounded by cherry blossom (in the men’s room) and bamboo (in the women’s room). Maki has since become a highly sought-after restaurant, attracting families, couples, and more.
In 2014, Koshu was awarded a commission to work on the walls of the Japanese restaurant “Kobe Sushi”. After some discussion with their architect, Koshu chose to write the letter “Qi” which means “energy”, hoping to give the restaurant a positive flow of energy. Her artwork “Qi” can be seen gracing two of the main walls, as well as on the restaurant’s sign and menu. With its casual style, Kobe Sushi has become a popular dining destination.
Koshu creates unique and captivating pieces by blending elements of Eastern and Western cultures. She is the Deshi (honoured student) of Master Seizan Fujimoto, who was a student of Master Kakudo Arita, who in turn was a student of the renowned calligrapher Kaikaku Niwa. This lineage of master calligraphers traces back to the revered Meikaku Kusakabe, who was a highly regarded calligrapher in the Meiji period.
Koshu (1967 – present): At the age of 8, Koshu began her journey in the art of Calligraphy under the tutelage of Seizan Fujimoto. Under Seizan’s guidance, she studied Goseki Nishiwaki’s style and later on studied the style of other renowned calligraphers. At the age of 24, she opened “Koshu Calligraphy school” in Japan, and since 2002 she has been teaching and introducing Japanese art internationally. Through a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultural influences, Koshu has crafted her own signature style in the calligraphy world.
Seizan Fujimoto (1919-2004): Born in Yamatuchi, Seizan was a student of Kakudo Arita. He went on to establish the “Honanshogei School” and became vice-president of the Japan Calligraphy Kigo Association. Kakudo advised him to study the style of Goseki Nishiwaki, a fellow student who had also been taught by Meikaku Kusakabe. Seizan emphasized the importance of mastering the basics, and applied mathematical principles to his calligraphy style, which he documented in a book. He devoted his life to teaching and training his successors. Seizan was also a talented scroll-maker and played an instrumental role in restoring historically significant works through his craftsmanship.
Goseki Nishiwaki (1879 – 1970): Born in Fukui Prefecture, Goseki studied under two leading calligraphers of the Meiji era, Kaiseki Murata and Meikaku Kusakabe. Goseki also studied the Wang Xizhi and Zhao Tzugang styles, and was one of the last in Japan to possess a deep understanding of Chinese poetry, calligraphy, and painting. In 1917, he was commissioned by the Ministry of Education to create a national calligraphy model, and he later served as Chairman of the Bunka Calligraphy Association. His calligraphy is renowned for its elegance, beauty, and its balance of artistry and practicality. It is hoped that his work will continue to be cherished and passed down to future generations as a symbol of Japan’s calligraphy heritage.
Kakudo Arita (1899-1974): Kakudo was born in Yamaguchi and went to Meikaku Kusakabe’s school in Tokyo during the 9th year of the Taisho period. There, he studied under Kaikaku Niwa and became a professional calligrapher. He further studied the Kana style under Chikudo Takatuki, who himself was a student of the renowned calligrapher in Kana style, Gado Ono. Kakudo collaborated with other calligraphy experts and focused on innovating calligraphy education and promoting its use for both artistic and practical purposes. He established his own calligraphy school in Hagi where he focused on training his successors while also working as an elementary school teacher.
Kaikaku Niwa (1863-1931): A student of the renowned calligrapher, Maikaku Kusakabe, Kaikaku’s active years covered both the Meiji and Taisho periods (late 19th century to the mid 1920s). He developed his own unique style based on the Zheng Daozhao style from sixth-century China, which became widely known as the “Kaikaku style” and dominated the calligraphy landscape of Japan. Alongside Tenrai Hirai and Secchiku Kondo, Kaikaku was one of the most charismatic calligraphers of his time. He greatly influenced the world of calligraphy and focused on developing the modern calligraphy education.
Meikaku Kusakabe (1838-1922): Meikaku was a Cabinet Diplomat of the New Government in the Meiji period. After his retirement, he created his own “Meikaku style” influenced by the Chinese Calligrapher Yang Shoujing, and became one of the three most influential calligraphers of the Meiji period, alongside Gochiku Nakamura and Ichiroku Iwaya. He was widely regarded as the Father of Modern Japanese Calligraphy, and was known as both an artist and an educator. He trained many successors, and his influence continues to this day as many calligraphers continue to follow his style.