MADRID — I used to take it for granted in my youth that my practice of “sho” (Japanese calligraphy) would bear no relation to my career as a diplomat, but over the past half century I have often found that sho serves as a good topic of conversation with my guests.

When they see the works of sho in my house, my foreign guests usually start asking questions ranging from the history of sho to Japanese culture in general. When I mention the importance of respiration to the movement of the brush in sho, the conversation leads to the Japanese martial arts.

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