Nara Brushes

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There is a traditional New Year’s custom in Japan known as kaki zome, when people use a writing brush to compose their first Japanese calligraphy of the New Year. Writing brushes are valued in a number of other important settings as well, and Nara brushes in particular have a long history of popularity as a top-quality writing brush. In fact, the history of brush manufacturing in Japan originated with Nara brushes.

Nara brushes can be traced back roughly 1,200 years, when the monk Kobo Daishi—also known as Kukai—learned the teachings of esoteric Buddhism in China, and returned to establish the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. He also mastered Chinese brush manufacturing techniques, and upon his return, brush production spread throughout the country. However, it was only during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) that school education became mandatory and writing brushes began to be used throughout Japan.

The Nara brush is characterized by its material selection. Using only animal hairs that have the appropriate balance of hardness and softness, and which can hold large quantities of ink, roughly 10 types of hair are typically used, including sheep, horse, deer, tanuki, weasel, Japanese marten, rabbit and squirrel. Nara brushes are made by skillfully combining these many types of hair while balancing qualities such as hardness, softness, length, elasticity and flexibility.

The production process involves a traditional technique unique to the Nara brush, called Nerimaze-ho, or the Method of Kneading and Mixing. This technique requires craftspeople to soak every single raw hair in water and harden it, then decide which hair needs to be used at what ratio and what measurement to achieve the desired characteristics when combined in the final brush. While prohibitively time consuming, this meticulous work leads to exquisite, high quality brushes.

The long-cultivated techniques of Nara brush-making have been passed on to this day, with their superior properties receiving significant attention from writers and brushwork experts. Calligraphy written with high-quality Nara brushes has a unique feel, and anyone interested in mastering Japanese calligraphy can enjoy the refreshing experience of writing with a Nara brush.

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Related facilities

  • Nara Welding Society

    Address:

    129-1 Kashiwagicho Nara City Nara Prefecture

    Telephone:

    0742-31-9084

  • JR Nara Station

    Address:

    1 Sanjohoncho Nara City Nara Prefecture