Wearing the Beauty of Hiragana
Saori Kunihiro (Chirographer/Designer) Saori Kunihiro is a calligrapher and designer born in Hiroshima prefecture. Starting calligraphy at the age of six, and since 2011, Kunihiro has designed company logos, book titles, names, seals, and held workshops and international exchanges through calligraphy.
Accessory brand Hiragana expresses the beautiful curves found in traditional Japanese characters that are also called hiragana. These wearable words beautifully spell out the voices of people’s spirits.
Fascinated by the beauty of hiragana, calligrapher Saori Kunihiro established accessory brand Hiragana to inherit Japanese tradition and spread to the world.
Starting calligraphy at the age of six, Kunihiro decided to master the art form in 2011. To familiarize calligraphy to a wider audience, she studied graphic and web design to improve her design and production skills.
Kunihiro started designing business cards and incorporated hiragana into her designs.
“As I studied the history of Japanese calligraphy, I started noticing the beauty of these characters and wanted people to recognize this as well. I started designing business cards and logos. Soon I discovered connecting these characters make interesting designs. So I thought it would be interesting to make accessories using names.”
The finished product was a 10cm long pierce and people loved it. As it gained pubic attention, Kunihiro decided to start the Hiragana brand.
In creating original accessories, Kunihiro used various materials she had access to, including paper, acrylic, stainless steel, and 3D printers. She was not satisfied with the outcome and approached a sheet metal factory in Tokyo to find the exact material that will suit her needs.
At the factory, brass was shaped using lasers and then polished. Brass oxidizes and loses its original brilliance with time. It needs maintenance to keep its original shine. Laser cutting also had its limitations and so manufacturing here was given up.
After meeting many metal chasers, Kunihiro finally discovered her match.
“I can design but don’t have any knowledge in chasing. After deciding to start up the brand, there were many ups and downs trying to find the exact craftsman, and now I am finally satisfied with the products.”
As Kunihiro hears direct voices from customers at her pop up store, her imagination is stimulated to make different accessories.
The main materials used are silver and 10 and 18 karat gold. Quality materials are used for the accessories to last long and to build a long-lasting relationship with the words each accessory represents. The soft sparkles of 10 karat gold also match with the soft curves of hiragana.
The main words used at Hiragana are “ありがとう (Arigato, thank you),” “うつくしい (Utsukushii, beautiful),” “きずな (Kizuna, bond),” “ ゆめ (Yume, dream),” “あいしてる (Aishiteru, I love you),” “すき (Suki, I like you),” “こころ (Kokoro, heart),” “とうきょう (Tokyo),” “しぶや (Shibuya),” “ひろしま (Hiroshima),” “ぎんざ (Ginza),” “ことぶき (Kotobuki, congratulations),” and “さくら (Sakura, cherry blossom).” These words are words that are kept in one’s heart, and words to be spread to the world.
“The most popular words are ‘thank you’ and ‘beautiful.’ ‘I like you’ and ‘I love you’ are common for gifts too. City names were made to gain recognition worldwide and other city names can be made for special occasions. ‘Dream’ was created during the search for craftsmen seeing their craftsmanship and also to myself to fulfill my dream.”
The newly released Almanac Series express seasonal scenes. Month from the Japanese calendar and seasonal flower can be chosen. Similar to determining your birthstone, for March it would be “やよい (Yayoi)” and “すみれ (Sumire, violet)” or for November “しもつき (Shimotsuki)” and “もみじ (Momiji, maple).” It will make a special birthday gift for a better understanding of the true meaning of words and the Japanese spirit.
Many accessories seen today use the English alphabet. Using hiragana as a motif make Hiragana unique. On the other hand, simple uses of Japanese characters often give an old traditional Japanese image.
In contrast, Hiragana keeps the traditional Japanese characters while modernizing their delicate and stylish curves. These accessories are popular internationally but Kunihiro says she “wants Japanese to wear them the most.”
When you observe the sceneries in Japan, you see alphabets filling up the city. Wearing beautiful jewelry with hiragana motif can bring awareness of the Japanese language to the Japanese people.
Through Hiragana, Kunihiro is designing furniture and other goods with similar motifs. She is constantly challenging herself to create new items.
“To me, Hiragana is a very important theme. I want to protect this unique culture and spread it to the world.”
Text: Kaori Tomabechi
Picture: Kaori Tomabechi
Photo Credit：BAEMS JAPAN
Translation: Yukie Haneda
Saori Kunihiro is a Japanese calligraphist and designer.
She was born in the prefecture of Hiroshima.
Saori Kunihiro was only 6 years old when she did calligraphy for the first time. In 2011, she devoted herself to this art. Then, she did her best to promote international meetings. Moreover, she created her own commercial/trade logo, she published a book about calligraphy, she started nominative calligraphy then she launched her own brand. Finally, Saori Kunihiro is also involved into the opening of a work place about shodou, the name given to calligraphy art using India ink.
Through their flowing lines, ideograms come to life. The calligraphist Saori Kunihiro has been fascinated by the beauty of “Hiragana”’s ideograms. Since the Manyo Era (7th/8th Century A.D.), the “Kana” became an important part of the Japanese culture and language. The calligraphist aims to merger past and present through these ideograms which have allowed Japanese people to express their own feelings for over thousand years. The jewelries called “Hiragana” become a new way to merger liking for writing and Japanese aesthetic.