What Is A Shikishi Board?

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Japan is a land steeped in tradition, and many aspects of its culture reflect a deep appreciation for art and aesthetics. Among these cultural treasures is the shikishi board, a small yet significant item that has played a vital role in Japanese art, calligraphy, and gift-giving for centuries. In this blog, we will explore what a shikishi board is, its origins, uses, and cultural significance.

What Is A Shikishi Board?

A shikishi board (also known as shikishi) is a small, rectangular piece of thick, high-quality paper or cardboard with a smooth, white surface. It serves as a canvas for artistic and calligraphic expressions in Japan. The term “shikishi” itself means “square paper” in Japanese, reflecting its fundamental shape.

Origins And History

A Tradition Rooted in Poetry

Shikishi boards have a long and storied history dating back to Japan’s classical era, particularly during the Heian period (794-1185). Originally, shikishi boards were used for composing waka poetry, a traditional form of Japanese verse. These poems often graced the boards, which were then exchanged as tokens of appreciation and affection.

Evolution of Shikishi

Over time, shikishi boards evolved beyond poetry and became a versatile medium for various forms of artistic expression. They found their place in Japanese tea ceremonies, where artists and calligraphers used them to create visually appealing scrolls and artworks.

Uses And Artistry

Calligraphy and Painting

One of the primary uses of shikishi boards is for calligraphy and painting. Skilled calligraphers and artists use brushes and ink to create intricate characters, vibrant paintings, or intricate designs on the smooth surface of the board. These artworks often feature traditional Japanese motifs, landscapes, or symbolic characters.

Gift-Giving and Honoring Achievements

Shikishi boards are also integral to Japanese gift-giving customs. When presented as a gift, they can convey good wishes, congratulations, or expressions of gratitude. It is common to find shikishi boards adorned with calligraphy or artwork, often framed, and given on special occasions such as weddings, graduations, or significant life milestones.

Autographs and Memorabilia

Shikishi boards are sometimes used as autograph boards at events featuring famous individuals, including celebrities, artists, or public figures. Collectors value these signed shikishi boards as prized memorabilia.

Cultural Significance

Shikishi boards hold a unique cultural significance in Japan:

  1. Artistic Expression: They serve as a canvas for artists and calligraphers to showcase their talent and creativity, preserving traditional Japanese art forms.
  2. Gift-Giving: Shikishi boards are symbolic gifts, representing well-wishes and appreciation. The act of giving a shikishi board is a gesture of respect and honor.
  3. Ceremonial Use: Shikishi boards are an essential element in tea ceremonies, where they contribute to the aesthetics and ambiance of the ritual.
  4. Connection to Poetry: The historical connection between shikishi boards and waka poetry highlights their role in preserving Japan’s poetic heritage.


The shikishi board, with its simplicity and elegance, encapsulates the essence of Japanese artistry, culture, and tradition. As a canvas for artistic and calligraphic expression, a medium for gift-giving and ceremonial use, and a repository of historical and cultural significance, the shikishi board continues to hold a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people and those who appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship it represents. Whether adorned with an intricate poem, a captivating painting, or heartfelt well-wishes, the shikishi board serves as a timeless symbol of artistic excellence and meaningful connections.

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What Is A Shikishi Board Used For?

Shikishi boards are made from fine handmade art papers laminated to a hard board backing. Edged with a strip of gold paper and traditionally used for Sumi painting, haiku and watercolor painting. Can also be used as a substrate for multimedia projects.

What Is A Shikishi Meaning?

In Japanese art: Calligraphy and painting. … specially prepared square papers (shikishi) later affixed to a painting. Although virtually no examples of this custom survive from the Heian period, it is known through documentary sources and through revivals of the practice in subsequent centuries.

What Is Shikishi Board Made Of?

Made from fine handmade papers with a smooth surface, laminated to a hard board backing. These are edged with a strip of gold paper and are traditionally used for Sumi painting, haiku and watercolor painting.

What Size Is Shikishi Art?

The 45 artworks featured in this book were created on shikishi boards measuring 120 x 135 millimeters or 4,7 x 5,3 inches in size, with varying paper materials. Several different mediums were utilized in their creation, including alcohol markers, poster colors, watercolors, and inks.

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