The apartment was enormous by Tokyo standards and I was pleased to have a small studio with tatami mats where I could practice my shodo (calligraphy). I had arranged to take shodo classes across town in Roppongi, with a shodo master. This particular class had an English interpreter. The first class was challenging -- the interpreter, Mark, was delayed and without wifi all my translation apps were useless. I was there to learn, nonetheless, and a brush was thrusted into my hand and my Sensei (teacher) translated my first name into three beautiful Japanese kanji. I watched her brush glide effortlessly across the rice paper in vermillion ink, creating the characters with graceful strokes and dabs. The teacher or master always uses red-orange ink, which the student then copies from. This did not seem difficult.
After two hours of concentrating on recreating the characters she made, I was exhausted. The brush dragged on the rice paper and ran out of ink before I could complete one character. She would patiently show me again, completing all three characters with one dip of the brush and correcting my characters with the red ink. I was certain that it was easier to write with that vermillion ink. I left class with sumi ink, a brush, paper and a new sheet of vermillion kanji to practice--determined to do better.