Japan is located at the edge of Asia; during its 2000 years history, Japan had been closed for the outside world for 200 years. Since Japan experienced very little foreign influence, many unique tradi ...Further Details...
"Kumano Brush" is a common name for brushes that are produced in Aki County, Hiroshima Prefecture. The name "Kumano Brush" was originally used only for calligraphy, but in 2004 the trademark "Kumano Brush" was registered and nowadays "Kumano Brush" is the common name for calligraphy and make-up brushes that are produced in Kumano-cho.
A long time ago, Kumano was a land only suitable for agriculture. During the off-season, farmers made a living by going to Nara to purchase brushes and then returned back home to sell them to the locals. Later on they learned how to make brushes and began producing them by themselves. Gradually Kumano brushes became popular and Kumano became the capital of the brush industry. All materials for brushes are imported and the brushes are made entirely in the town of Kumano, hence it is nicknamed "artisan’s town". Making a brush is manual labor, so there are a lot of women involved in this craft.
These days, the production of calligraphy and make-up brushes goes hand in hand. We talked to Tsuchiya Takeyoshi, the president of "Koyudo", a company specializing in brushes.
1. Please tell us about Koyudo
Koyudo was founded in 1979 by an ancestor of mine (presently, he is the company’s chairman). Originally, they only produced calligraphy brushes. Given the impact of the declining birthrate in the country, we also got involved in the production of make-up brushes and other products. 3 out of 22 craftsmen who reside in Kumano are our full-time employees.
2. What are the features of Kumano Brushes?
Perhaps it is the delicate tip. It all depends on the intended usage: when doing calligraphy, it absorbs water perfectly and when you use it for make-up, it is not too stiff on your face and the tip is perfectly manageable.
For calligraphy brushes, the hair of horses, weasels, goats and raccoons is used. The tip becomes soft and flexible as a result; this is where the art of the craftsmen is fully demonstrated. There are 70 different steps in making one brush, and this also depends on a particular craftsman. Clients who have specific tastes sometimes give instruction to the craftsman as to what kind of product they want to use.
3. Tell us about the make-up brushes.
There are 30 steps in making a make-up brush. The tip of a calligraphy brush is made by hand, whereas the tip of a make-up brush is made by inserting hair into a mold. Koyudo produces high quality products under the concept of "good product x cute". Our company’s trademark products include a thick brush in the shape of a heart, a facewash brush, items with characters, a brush that resembles a rose, etc. Recently we have also introduced a popular Hiroshima brush with a lemon scent.
4. Interesting. Who thought of that idea?
This idea came about during a conversation between me and the chairman. The things our clients find interesting we try to turn into products. Apart from the Kumano factory, we have offices in China and Vietnam. We use a lot of Chinese materials. We process materials in China and the final manufacturing is performed in Kumano. We would like to use these production bases for further expansion into Asia. We also are considering expansion into Europe.
5. So you are not bound to tradition, but are open to new ideas and technology?
Well, Kumano brushes are developed from technology and materials. Our craftsmen intend to create good products using great technologies and we operate under this concept. This remains unchanged. Foreigners participate in our workshops, so we do our best to provide the best guidance to them. "Deliver the best products" is our core value and we are happy when people respond to it. Our ancestors were involved in setting up factories in the freezing cold of Harbin and heat of Vietnam. These days, we see the fruits of their hard work.
6. I see. What do you think about the expansion to the overseas market?
We are working hard on it. Currently, we are opening a store in Hong Kong. We also conduct promotional events at Isetan in Thailand and Singapore, as well as opening stores there. From make-up to face wash brushes, we want everyone to use our products, whether it be a man or woman.
7. Probably the most in demand product abroad is the make-up brush, isn’t it?
Well, we promote that as our main product so most people associate us with make-up brushes. Brushes are often associated with Japanese characters. For this reason we make our brushes very soft as if they were intended to write Japanese hiragana characters. You apply more strength when you write kanji characters, so that brush doesn't have to be soft. On the other hand, brushes are often used for drawing watercolor pictures.
8. How do you picture the development of Koyudo in the future?
We plan to take different actions regarding the stores opening overseas and strengthening our brand. We want more people around the world to know about our brand and want to learn more about the people of the world. For example, we conduct brush-making workshops at our factory in Kumano. Hiroshima is a popular place among foreign tourists, so why don’t they drop by Kumano as well? It is a small city and the roads are narrow, but we still want them to enjoy our "Village of Brushes".
Factory tour: Reservation required (one day before). Time required: 30 minutes
Fees: Free Monday-Friday 10:00-15:00 (except 12:00-13:00)
Brush-making workshop: Reservation required (one day before). Time required: 45 minutes
Fees: 3.000 yen (before tax). Product: Rose mini-brush. Tip: pink/ handle
Monday-Friday 10:00-15:00 (except 12:00-13:00)
You can put your name on the brush you made.
Kumano Brushes - From calligraphy brushes to make-up brushes: Image Gallery
Hair of different lengths that serve as the material for calligraphy brushes
A brush with a Mickey Mouse silhouette
Outer view of the factory