Kumano brushes Kumano fude
180 years of history and skills
All for the perfect brushes
Kumano brushes are called "Kumano fude" in Japanese, a fude being a brush. Kumano brushes are traditional craftworks produced in the city of Kumano in the Hiroshima Prefecture, hence the name.
They are made from a wide variety of hair such as goat, horse, deer, raccoon dog, weasel, or cat hair. The shape of the brush tip is not cut straight but gently oscillated into a wooden mold, a distinctive characteristic of Kumano brushes.
By making the best use of the natural properties of each type of hair, brushes with fine delicate tips and a good handle are created. The only brushes that can claim to be authentic Kumano brushes are those with heads produced in the city of Kumano and that are using the traditional manufacturing techniques such as finely-powdered rice husk ashes to remove any trace of oil or binding with linen thread.
Kumano is renowned for its government-designated traditional craft calligraphy brushes as well as the more recent production of paint and makeup brushes. Creating just one Kumano brush requires more than 70 production steps, most of them being handwork. To complete each process, years of training and experience are needed. It is especially difficult to select specific hair for a particular brush type and assemble them.
Very aware of its deep and rich two century heritage, Kumano is making every effort to train the next generations of brush makers.
The history of Kumano brushes dates back to the late Edo period (1603-1868) when like many other rural communities the chief industries of Kumano were agricultural, but being located in a basin with little arable flat land, during the winter seasons farmers worked as migrant workers in the Nara and Kishu regions. While on their travels it was common practice for them to peddle calligraphy brushes and inksticks so, until in the late Edo period, the three founding figures of the region's brush-making tradition appeared on the scene.
The first, Tameji SASAKI, learned the art of brush-making in the Arima region in 1835, and was followed by Tsuneta OTOMARU in 1846. The third, Jihei INOUE learned his craft from a master in Hiroshima that same year. The trio passed on their brush-making techniques, which soon spread to form the seeds of the new industry, and also, encouraged by the Hiroshima domain administration, the new handicraft thrived.
With the start of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and the introduction of a nationwide educational system, production of calligraphy brushes increased to meet the expanding demand; however, the Second World War forced the suspension of production for a while. With the coming of peace, unfortunately the art of calligraphy was no longer taught in schools, but manufacturers took the opportunity to add the production of paint and makeup brushes to supplement the slumped sales of calligraphy brushes. Later in 1958, calligraphy was once more back on the school curriculum, resulting in sky-rocketing demand for Kumano brushes, more than ever before.
In 1975, Kumano brushes were designated as a traditional craft, followed in 2004 by the brushes being awarded their own collective trademark; currently Kumano brushes account for about 80% of the domestic brush production.
General Production Process
- 1.Selecting the hair and assembling them together
First, the best quality hair is carefully selected among unprocessed hair. The volume of hair selected and assembled depends on the intended purpose of the brush.
- 2.Heating and rolling the hair
Rice husk ashes are sprinkled onto the hair and heat is applied to them with a flat iron. Then, they are firmly rolled in a buckskin to remove any oil.
- 3.Arranging the hair
The hair is rolled using the palm of the hand, removed from the buckskin and combed to remove any fluffy hair. Small batches of hair are then stacked and evenly arranged.
- 4.Removing any imperfections
Any damages or hair in the wrong direction are removed using a hanzashi knife.
The hair is cut in the correct length.
- 6.Mixing The hair is spread out and then well mixed with glue.
- 7.Making of the core The hair is inserted into a wooden brush head called a koma and the volume is adjusted to a set standard to form a brush shaped core with a classic pointed tip.
- 8.Wrapping the hair A thin outer layer of even higher quality hair is wrapped around the first set of hair and this basic brush core is left to dry.
- 9.Tying thread
A linen thread is wound around the base of the core and a hot iron is applied to further solidify the protein of the hair and give shape to the brush.
The brush head is now completed.
- 10.Selecting a brush holder A holder that suits the brush size is selected.
- 11.Straightening The holder is gently warmed and softened over a fire before being placed into a straightener to remove any curves or twists.
- 12.Cutting the holder The appropriate length is determined then cut.
- 13.Attaching a cap to the holder A celluloid or wood cap is glued to the end of the holder.
- 14.Lathe chamfering The cap is shaved on a lathe adapted to the size of the holder.
- 15.Polishing the holder After a first rough polishing with water, the holder is waxed to make it shine.
- 16.Attaching a cord A hole is opened in the end of the cap end and a cord is passed through it.
- 17.Adjusting the shape The joint between the brush head and the holder is chamfered and adjusted to match the holder. It is also fitted to a lathe and shaved with a specific knife.
- 18.Attaching the joint Some glue is applied to the holder before fitting the joint around it.
- 19.Inserting the brush The inner side of the joint is evenly scraped and glue is applied in preparation for inserting the brush head.
- 20.Finishing touches
The brush head is hardened by vigorously soaking and pressing it into a bath of glue paste.
Any excess of glue is then squeezed out with a linen thread. The final touches are given to the head and it is then left to dry.
- 21.Engraving the maker’s mark
A chisel is placed firmly on the holder and an inscription is engraved by moving the holder. Pigments are also applied to color the inscription.
This is the last step in making a Kumano brush.
Where to Buy & More Information
Fude No Sato Kobo
ClosedEvery Monday (if Monday is holiday, we open on Monday and close on Tuesday), around the New Year
Business Hours10am to 5pm