Tochigi: A handwritten message from the heart

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Manabu Yoshida, chief of the Imaichi police station, right, presents handwritten certificates of appreciation to people who helped protect an elderly woman.

IMAICHI, Tochigi — Manabu Yoshida, the 55-year-old chief of the Imaichi police station, Tochigi Prefecture, pours his heart into certificates of appreciation that he writes himself and then gives to residents who have helped prevent crime.

“I would like to express my gratitude by making use of the writing skills I have,” said Yoshida as he held a calligraphy brush.

His grade in calligraphy is third dan, and he obtained a private certification as a “practical brush calligrapher” last summer.

Beautiful mottos

Yoshida was transferred this March from his former post as head of the prefectural police’s traffic regulation division to become chief of the police station, which boasts the largest jurisdiction by area in the prefecture.

While many stations use computers to create the certificates, he said, “As a police officer, I wanted to put my heart and soul into the letters to repay the courage and hard work of those who took the initiative and helped us.”

Yoshida started taking calligraphy classes in the first grade after his father said that if he could write beautifully in front of others, he would be seen as wise and skilled. But after Yoshida became a police officer in 1985, there were few opportunities to use his handwriting skills.

When he was in the traffic task force as a commander, the force celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. To celebrate, he put his calligraphy skills to use and wrote out the unit’s new mottos of “Sincerity,” “Improvement,” “Single-mindedness,” “Progress,” and “Safety.”

The slogans, which he completed with great enthusiasm, helped rally the unit’s spirits.

Writs of assistance

In the summer of 2019, he enrolled in a correspondence course thinking, “I would eventually like to write certifications of appreciation and commendation.”

On his days off and after work, Yoshida prepared his favorite ink stone, ink, and brush, and he continued to write on blank paper. Using the course materials as examples, he learned basic skills such as writing hiragana and kanji, as well as how to lay out award letters and invitations. After receiving strict guidance from experts, he obtained his certification.

Since assuming the post of police station chief, he has written certificates of appreciation to people such as a bank employee who prevented special frauds targeting the elderly and residents who protected the elderly from getting lost.

Yoshida spends 30 to 40 minutes in a small room in the police station to finish each certificate on his days off, when he can concentrate.

“I feel the most intense when I write the names of those who have helped us,” he said. “I think of their achievements and personalities as I carefully write each letter. It makes me happy to see recipients express their happiness when they receive it.”