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Written language can be beautiful. From hieroglyphics to devanagari to latin script, single letters can be considered works of art. But in Japan, the syllabic characters, while beautiful on their own, are often used to create images and pictures. For example, in the photo above, うんこ (“unko”, the Japanese word for…how do I put this delicately…”poop”) gradually evolves into a face. While not the most elegant of examples, the practice of transforming hiragana, katakana, and kanji into art work has been around in Japan for longer than you might think.

Here’s another take on the “unko face”:

▼ No “sh*t head” jokes, please.Hiragana art

Turning characters into pictures has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. Here’s one by Santo Kyoden, a renowned Japanese poet, writer and artist. The piece, titled “Hemamusho Monk” was drawn about 700 years ago during the Muromachi Period. Can you spot the Japanese characters, ヘマムショ (hemamusho) in the drawing below?

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These next drawings were created by Santo Kyoden’s apprentice. They depict images of “strong man,” “ghost” and “heron” made out of hiragana.

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Here’s another traditional example created by Katsushika Hokusai, the Edo Period ukiyo-e painter best known for his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. The image incorporates the kanji, 一心 (“wholeheartedness”), which forms the man’s body.

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Here is another by Hokusai. It is a portrait of Ariwara no Narihira, one of the “Six Poetic Geniuses” of the early Heian era. Hokusai used the characters in Ariwara no Narihira’s name (在ハらのなり平) to create his image.

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Since the characters are incorporated into the picture so well, let’s look at a breakdown of the image to get a better idea of where each character is hiding:

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Going even further back in history, the image below was made in the Heian Period (794-1185) and is believed to be one of the first examples of the use of Japanese syllabic characters to create pictures. The style is called “ajide” and usually depicts images of grass or birds.

▼ What image do you see? Can you spot any hiragana characters?Hiragana art7

The tradition of creating pictures using the Japanese syllabary is still strong today. Many people in Japan will recognize the “へのへのもへじ” face below.Hiragana art5

▼ Another modern example. Writing “nishikori” in hiragana creates the face of former professional baseball player, Hideki Matsui.

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As our society moves away from pen and paper, what used to be hand-written is now typed into a computer. Could ASCII art be considered another modern take on this centuries-old art form?

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Although ASCII art is nowhere near as refined as that of the Heian, Muromachi, and Edo Periods, can it still be considered art? Are they the same kind of art form? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below!

Source: Naver Matome