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原稿用紙 (げんこうようし) A Japanese stationery whose name literally means "blank printed manuscript form". Genkoo yooshi is used by Japanese students the same way lined paper is used by American students for compositions, but the rules are slightly more stringent. You should be able to find it at your local Japanese import store, or possibly elsewhere.

Genkoo yooshi is a rectangular grid of boxes, usually about 20x24, with a null row in the middle. It is used in "landscape" orientation (that is, sideways, horizontal, whatever you want to call it), and characters are written on it from top to bottom, right to left. No characters are written on the null row.

The following is a rundown on the rules for composing on genkoo yooshi:

The title of the composition should be written on the first line, indented four boxes, and then the author's name down-justified in the second line. Make sure there is one blank box at the end of the second line. The author's first and last names should be separated by a dot.

The actual composition should begin on the third line, and should be indented one box. Each character, kanji or kana, normal or small, should take up exactly one box. Each punctuation mark also takes up exactly one box. The only exception to this is where a punctuation mark would fill the last box in a line; in that case, the punctuation mark and the character it follows should be written together in this last box.

When writing the small kana or punctuation marks, write them in the upper-right hand corner of the box. Center all other characters in their boxes.

When ending a paragraph, leave all remaining boxes in that line blank, and indent one box in the next line.

I had to use genkoo yooshi a couple of times to submit drafts of compositions and speeches to my Japanese teachers, and using it is more difficult than it sounds, especially if there is a limit on the number of lines you can have. Because you have to leave all remaining boxes in a line empty when you end a paragraph, there's some tricky editing involved to get the most out of every line. On the other hand, I find writing Japanese on regular lined paper to be more diffcult than using genkoo yooshi, because the latter provides squares to fit the characters in, and the vertical space between the lines on lined paper is too small to write well.

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