Kumano cho is the capital of brushes, and produces 80% of the brushes made in Japan for painting, writing and cosmetics. However, none of the materials used to make the brushes come from Kumano. In other words, natural hairs of sheep, horse, itachi wolf, or raccoon are all imported from North America and China. Materials for brush handles are either from Okayama and Shimane prefectures, or imported from Taiwan and Korea.
Kumano has an interesting history for this successful industry. A long time ago, the farmers used to buy brushes and ink from Nara and sell them to the locals in order to earn extra income after harvesting rice. The Hiroshima local government encouraged this activity and Kumano began making brushes eventually as well. Later, Japanese calligraphy was introduced as a school subject, and the increased demand for brushes brought stability to the industry in Kumano.
It normally takes 70 steps to create one brush. It is a manual process. It is said to take at least 10 years to be able to handle animal hairs properly and proficiently. The price of brushes varies: for example, one for a calligraphy class goes for about 1000 yen ($10). On the other hand, one used by a professional makeup artist or calligraphy artist will cost anywhere between several tens of thousands and 300,000 yen ($3-400 to $3,000). When Japan’s women soccer champions for the World Cup in Germany received the People’s Honor Award from the Japanese government, a Kumano make-up brush was presented to each player as a special gift.
The tips of the hand-made brushes are naturally uneven, which produces a nice and delicate contact with paper or one’s face, helping to create a superb finish. Therefore, Kumano brushes are very popular among many world-renowned make-up artists.
Photo by Hiroshima Prefecture
5-17-1 Nakamizo Kumanocho Aki-gun Hiroshima-ken
Hiroshima Prefecture Tourism Bussan Museum Sankai station
1-13-13 Ujinakaigan Minami-ku Hiroshima-ken