Continuing to blog about presents, because my mail server is being a pain and won't let me send thank you emails...
I think I may have seen a mention in an lj somewhere of Enpitsu de oku no hosomichi, Basho's Narrow Roads to the Deep North in a trace-over version. I think I may have said Oh I want that. There's a faint bell rings in connection with it but I can't really remember if I did or not. luxetumbra seems to have remembered perfectly, because that's what she sent me for Christmas, along with a thoughtful box of presharpened pencils and a most flattering Christmas card. I squealed when I opened the book package. Because, well, it's just so cool to be writing out Japanese poems and practising one's penmanship, Heian lady-like.
One of the lucky breaks of my life was the woman who tutored me in Japanese the summer after my first year course. She was a nisei who'd studied calligraphy in Japan and was thus able to demonstrate, in terms that made sense to me, what was wrong with my ham-fisted beginner's kana and kanji. I still don't write like a proper Japanese- I don't have the eye, and my gaijin instincts are to emphasize elements that aren't important. (My opening strokes are always too long and my loops either too big or small.) But my handwriting doesn't look like a foreigner's either, as several people have been kind enough- or surprised enough- to remark. I keep it up by random practice, copying the handwriting of the rare Japanese who've come my way. There are fewer and fewer of these as email has become the default mode of communication. But now I have a whole book of fair copy exemplars: and some language practice as well if I want it. Thanks immensely, lux!
BTW I recommend penmanship practice for its tranquilizing effects. There are people who say they hate kanji. Never could figure that one. Apart from the sheer coolness of knowing Chinese! characters!, writing them out is a very calming exercise. Like tai chi, but without making your ankles hurt.