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TOKYO (Reuters) - From small children to octogenarians, thousands came together in Tokyo Thursday for a new year's battle of the brushes in an annual national calligraphy contest.
In what has long been a ritual for the start of the year, people all across Japan write down their resolutions and hopes, or good luck characters, using a traditional horse-hair brush and ink made of charcoal.
This year's contestants brushing their welcome to the Year of the Dragon included children from Fukushima prefecture, which is still struggling with the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, set off by last year's massive earthquake and tsunami.
"I wasn't sure if I would be able to write well, but I did better than I thought so I think it's good," said Natsumi Yazawa, a 14-year-old from Fukushima who traveled hundreds of kilometers to take part.
Contestants, who ranged from those aged four all the way up to 85, were assigned Chinese characters such as "Spring Wing" and "Year of the Dragon" and given 24 minutes to complete their masterpieces.
One of the older participants was Etsuko Saotome, who said she had looked forward to taking part as it gave her energy.
"I'll be 74, and while that's embarrassing, this gives me a chance to feel youthful again, writing with all of these children," she said.
The pieces were collected to be reviewed by judges according to rules such as their flow, line strength and angles. The winners will be announced on Jan 22.
Calligraphy is a widely practiced and revered art in many parts of Asia, with the act of writing Chinese characters believed to sharpen the mind and improve concentration.
Reporting by Chris Meyers; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa