【Japanese Beauty Vol.6】Secret Behind the Success of ”KOYUDO - Brushes”

Japan is home to many traditional arts that have been passed down through the ages. They range from classical theatrical styles like kabuki and noh performance to traditional crafts like pottery and ceramics. In this installment of @cosme NIPPON PROJECT, we’re turning the spotlight on Japanese brushes.

When it comes to brushes, the most famous is the “Kumano brush”. This type of brush comes from Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan, which is known as Japan’s top producer of calligraphy and art brushes. The city of Kumano is home to several brush manufacturers, one of which is the calligraphy brush maker Koyudo. Founded in 1978, they are nearing 40 years in the brush making business. By applying the techniques needed to create calligraphy and art brushes, Koyudo eventually expanded their scope to include makeup brushes. It took more than a few twists and turns for Koyudo to earn the esteem of the makeup industry, so let’s take a look at the story behind their success! “The brush makes the look.” You might have heard something like this, but is it true? Or is it just marketing? We’ll get to the bottom of this question and find out what makes Kumano makeup brushes so special.

KOYUDO Makeup Brushes

There are more than a few beauty gurus who hear the words “makeup brush” and think of Kumano first. But for the rest of us, it might be good to start with some basic background information about Kumano brushes.

From Hiroshima airport, hop in a car and drive west for an hour. You’ll reach Kumano city, a town of about 24,000 located in the Aki district of Hiroshima prefecture. Anyone in Japan can tell you that this town is most famous for the production of Kumano brushes. The calligraphy and art brushes made in Kumano make up 80% of the total brushes produced in Japan, giving this town the undisputed title of number one in the country. Everywhere you go, you can see brushes in action, from the welcoming face of Fude-rin, the town mascot, to a restaurant waiting list that has you write your own name with a brush! Part of the town’s revitalization efforts has been to embrace the brush making industry as an indispensable element of life, both modern and traditional.

You could only find this unique celebration in Kumano, where brushes are an indelible part of history. Every year, on the autumnal equinox, the Fude Matsuri brush festival is held at the 1,100-year-old Sakakiyama Shrine. 2017 marked the 83rd celebration in the long history of this festival.

“We hold a memorial service for well-used brushes and then place them in a fire as a way of giving thanks for their service to all people involved in cultural pursuits that make use of them,” said Nozomu Kajiyama, the 57th head priest of Sakakiyama Shrine.

“80% of Japan’s calligraphy brushes are made right here in Kumano. This city could only have come this far thanks to the brush making industry. At its heart, this festival expresses the gratitude that its people feel.”

On September 23, the autumnal equinox, the whole of the city celebrates this festival, allowing anyone who visits to see and touch the culture and history of Kumano brushes. At Sakakiyama Shrine, visitors are delighted by art workshops and other events related to brushwork, including a special inprovised calligraphic work created on a surface nearly 37 square meters in size.

Fudenosato Kobo, a museum within the city limits, is a must if you want to learn more about the history of brush making. Opened in 1994, the museum educates the public about the history and culture surrounding brushes. It also houses the world’s largest brush, at 3.7 meters in length and nearly 400 kilograms in weight. That’s just over 12 feet long and just under 900 pounds! Our guide at the museum was Kentarou Miyawaki, who does public relations for Fudenosato Kobo and told us that brush making in Kumano goes back to the Edo period.

“Of course, as everyone knows, Kumano is known for its brushes all across Japan, and now also across the world. Kumano’s main industry was originally agriculture, but many people here would make brushes and ink to sell during the off-season. Later, the old Hiroshima Domain government enacted plans to promote this industry, and Kumano gradually changed into a brush making town. Kumano was allowed to manufacture brushes in earnest after 1830, towards the end of the Edo period. The real trailblazers were the young Kumano villagers who learned the brush making techniques by going to work in Nara or in Arima, where brush making had already developed, or else by inviting brush making artisans to come to Kumano,” Mr. Miyawaki said.

“In 1868 (the year of the Meiji Restoration), there were 80 artisans working, and since then the sales of brushes have increased 50-fold. Within just 20 years, Kumano’s brush production skyrocketed. Due to the effects of the Second World War, brush production declined for a period, but by 1954 the production of art and even makeup brushes picked up again. Now, we have developed to the point where 80% of Japan’s calligraphy, art, and makeup brushes are made here in Kumano. Even today, this trade is passed down from parent to child, child to grandchild,” Mr. Miyawaki explained.

The city is full of evidence of this historical development; the story of small-scale producers contributing to the industrial prosperity of the whole city. It’s clear that the hard work and dedication of Kumano’s artisans and brush makers remains unchanged, from the past until today.

“What’s good about Kumano brushes is their high quality, I think. In Kumano city, we have a vibrant community of traditional craftspeople who are maintaining the techniques and traditions surrounding these brushes. There are 21 traditional craftspeople in Kumano at the moment, but there are practical and written examinations in place to certify people with over 12 years of experience, that work hard to help Kumano develop as a brush production center,” Mr. Miyawaki said.

To protect the craft of Kumano’s artisans, this national certification is only given to those who have long years of experience and the ability to pass a stringent examination process. After becoming a certified traditional craftsperson, these artisans work to promote the Kumano brush trade, placing them in high demand for appearances across Japan at exhibitions and even department store events. With the deft hand of a true artist, these craftspeople can create a calligraphy brush tip with machine-like precision. “But a machine could never create a brush like this, of course,” Mr. Miyawaki told us. The peerless skill of these artisans is evident in the pinpoint precision and perfect placement of bristles, which comes from years of experience. We couldn’t take our eyes off the hands of these artists as they pulled together brush after brush without even batting an eyelash.

Takemi Tsuchiya, the president of brush company Koyudo, laughed and told us, “Me? I’m actually terrible at calligraphy.” Mr. Tsuchiya came to the company by chance after getting married, finally ending up as the president. Now, he is coming up on 18 years with Koyudo. In 2004, the company began making and selling makeup brushes. This decision turned out to be a huge success, earning the company 900 million yen in 2017. “The Kumano brush name is certainly well-known within Japan, and it’s only becoming better known in other countries as well, which makes me truly happy. But we can’t just be satisfied with this; we must work harder to spread the word about the high quality of these brushes,” Mr. Tsuchiya explained.

Mr. Tsuchiya spoke softly, “It’s a funny thing.” He went on to explain a worry that those in traditional manufacturing often face. “The history and skill of Kumano brush making is something that our craftspeople can take pride in, something they can boast about. They feel that the technique and skill that their predecessors cultivated needs to be passed on to future generations as well. On the other hand, they are completely immersed in this traditional world, which can box them in,” he said.

Mr. Tsuchiya thought out loud while searching for words. “I wonder if there really is a way to make Kumano craftsmanship appealing while still protecting its traditions and practices,” he wondered. Finally, he simply said, “A brush is a brush. We have to focus on the quality of the brush.”

“If I had to say what makes Kumano brushes so good, it would have to be how comfortable and easy they are to use, which comes down to the technique that goes into making them. This might not be the right way of putting it, but if there’s somewhere to use that technique, it doesn’t matter where. [laughter] Eventually it’ll work out.” Some confident words, but do Kumano brushes stand a chance?

“Our chances? Pretty slim. [laughter] Still, our workshop does have several traditional craftsmen, and they’re really fantastic. How could we possibly let their skills go to waste and be forgotten?”

An unbroken line of brush makers. This is Masahiro Kotorida, age 79. Since qualifying as a traditional craftsman in 2010, he has traveled all over Japan to spread the word about Kumano brushes. Born in Kumano to a family likewise involved in brush making, he is a child of Kumano, born and bred.

Mr. Kotorida told us, “My mother was a Kumano brush maker, so ever since I was small, I watched and learned from how she made the brushes.” After finishing middle school, he started on the path toward becoming a brush maker, but at the age of 21 found employment with an automotive maker, hoping to learn more about a different world. He worked in sales for nearly 30 years. His performance was excellent and his company was on the rise. Despite a sense of satisfaction with his life, he told us that he “always felt something in his heart was pulling him back.”

“Kumano brushes were always at the back of my mind. I chose to live my life this way, so I’m not bitter, but I did have a small regret, which was brush making. When I was young, I never thought I would be able to do it well, but now I feel a little regret sometimes. It’s never too late to learn, but I wish I could go back and learn this craft from the beginning again.” Mr. Kotorida said.

He left his old job with only a few years left until retirement. Why did he choose to go down such a difficult path? “I don’t even know why. [laughter] But I had this feeling, it’s now or never.” As he answers, there isn’t a sign of doubt in his voice.

Make up your mind and just push on! Mr. Kotorida forges ahead with his brush making. He told us that what allowed him to focus this intensely on brush making was the fact that he decided to do this on his own. “I want to make a brush that I’m happy with,” he said.

“When I was still young, I got frustrated before finishing anything, so I never understood what made these brushes so wonderful. That was such a waste, and I really regret it now. So now I hope that I can understand the best qualities of Kumano brushes as deeply as possible, and then translate that into a physical object.”

The ABCs of Kumano brushes, according to a traditional craftsman The first key characteristic is materials.
“To a certain extent, if the technique is good, then you can probably make a decent brush. But Kumano brushes don’t just stop there. The real secret to these amazing brushes is the quality of the materials, or the bristles. For a calligraphy brush, the bristles give the brush life. It’s no exaggeration to say that choosing the bristles is life or death for the quality of a brush. I once asked Shigemori Uematsu, chairman of Koyudo, what makes a bristle fiber good. He took me to a workshop to see fibers being chosen and processed on location. Keeping these bristles on the best possible condition is one of the things that keeps the Kumano brush brand on top.

The second element is technique. You can tell whether a calligraphy brush is good or bad based on the tip of the brush. At the tip of each brush is a single bristle that rises to a sleek point. This bristle is known as the ‘inochi-ge’ (life hair), and the elasticity of this bristle when it comes in contact with paper, or the ‘nose’ (placement), has a huge effect on how characters are written. In Japanese calligraphy, this first stroke can determine the whole outcome of a work of art.

At our workshop, the inochi-ge is never cut during the manufacturing process. During the brush making process, you won’t see a single machine. From the first bristle to the very last, the brushes are completely handmade.

In order to perfect their technique, our artisans must work hard to improve their skills. Whether it’s colleagues or rivals, every craftsperson has worked hard to improve their own abilities and those of the people around them.

The third and final unique element of a Kumano brush is the flexibility of the bristles, which have to match the needs of the customer. No matter how much technique goes into creating a Kumano brush, there is no point if no one will use them. Hopefully, we hope our brushes can find a match in someone’s budget, purpose, and preferences. For that, our craftspeople constantly work to improve both their knowledge and skills. Plus, you need a sort of flexibility to adapt to every challenge. It’s vital to have the flexibility to break down preconceptions like ‘It has to be this way,’ or ‘You have to do it like this.’“

What is Mr. Kotorida’s ideal Kumano brush? “Hmm. I’m still trying to figure it out. [laughter] I still have a lot of work to do, I guess! But it would be nice to make a brush that makes me think, ‘This is the one!’“ Mr. Kotorida’s continues on to dream of making the perfect brush.

Koyudo is taking their calligraphy brush know-how and taking a detour into the cosmetics industry. Mr. Tsuchiya told us, “We’ve received some criticism over the decision to do this as a calligraphy brush company.” He continued, “Still, as the founder of the company, it was our chairman who made that decision after taking a hard look at the future, and I don’t think he was wrong.”

This change in direction happened just around the time that cheap calligraphy brushes were being imported from China, causing major disruptions in demand for higher-priced Kumano brushes. Not to mention, a falling birthrate and changes in the educational system meant that fewer and fewer people were being introduced to calligraphy.

“This was what made the decision to pursue the manufacture of both makeup brushes calligraphy brushes not only a question of Koyudo’s future, but of Kumano’s future,” Mr. Tsuchiya said. This will to do whatever it takes that ended up impressing so many of the people involved.

One outcome was the development of a uniquely designed makeup brush. “The chairman said ‘When you do your makeup with it, you have to have a sense of excitement, so the brush has to be cute too,’ which is how we thought of the Heart Brush design.”

Cosmetics design and development normally reflects the tastes and preferences of the women who are the end users. Even we assumed the heart-shaped design was created by a women, but the Heart Brush was actually thought up by a man! And not just any man, the chairman of the company!

“In the beginning, Koyudo’s cosmetics brushes started with a cleansing brush in addition to makeup brushes; a brush to lather up face wash. Everyone has probably experienced this, but when you’re in a rush in the morning, lathering your face wash can be a bit of a pain,” Mr. Tsuchiya said.

This cleansing brush turned out to be the inspiration for the Heart Brush.

As Mr. Tsuchiya explained, “The chairman was looking at this cleansing brush and out of the blue, he said ‘Wouldn’t it be cute if the end of the brush was heart-shaped instead of round?’ He thought the heart shape might make people a little happier in the morning. Sounds like something that would make more sense coming from a young girl than a middle-aged man, right? [laughter] But we noticed that it wasn’t just the appearance of the heart shape that was nice, it also felt great to use.”

After designing the heart shape, they used the Heart Brush and discovered that the indentation in the center of the brush fit perfectly around the outside corners of the eyes and around the nose. The Heart-shaped Cleansing Brush was particularly good at getting makeup and dirt off the skin right next to the nose, which was a happy surprise! “Of course it looks great, but once we found out it was so good in places requiring small movements, we knew it would do well.” What makes the Heart Brush special is, of course, its shape. “Kumano brushes are made without cutting the tips of the bristles, so the shape of the base becomes very important. Creating the mold for these brushes was extremely difficult.”

The appearance isn’t the only thing that required some clever design. Kumano brushes are also about function. “Brush density. Each single brush has two brushes-worth of bristles, which means they lather up face wash amazingly well and create a creamy, refined foam for washing the face. Each day, they remade the brushes, adjusting the divot in the center of the heart or changing the gradation of color on the bristles, working to refine the product.

Because the brushes are made to be used in water, part of that revision process was repeated durability tests. “When you use water, the brush will be damaged faster no matter what you do.” In order to improve the durability of the brushes, they considered several options. Finally, they hit upon the idea of switching to a blend of goat hair bristles and nylon fibers. And with that, the Heart Brush was complete.

Creating a makeup brush was a big gamble, but management’s hopes were tinged with worry. Finally, after its release, the Heart Brush still wasn’t getting much of a reaction. “There were definitely more than a few comments calling the Heart Brush the ‘butt brush’ or the ‘peach brush,’“ Mr. Tsuchiya said. “At the time, there was a new product exposition called ‘Brush Day’ where every brush maker could introduce their new products, and we heard a lot of concern from other makers, wondering if our brush would really sell,” he continued.

“The chairman ignored those concerns and moved forward with launching the brush. He felt even managing to sell 5 to 10 brushes per month would be satisfactory.” Even bestsellers need some time before their success takes off.

The Heart Brush launched without much buzz, but it really started to find its footing thanks to an unexpected sales opportunity. Looking back on it, Mr. Tsuchiya remarked, “We were really lucky.”

The Heart Brush’s savior? A foray into the world of wedding gifts. “I happened to see a wedding gift catalog lying around. I just thought, ‘Hearts are a symbol of happiness, and people would definitely appreciate them,’ so I went on a spur-of-the-moment sales call, and the person listening to my pitch said we could give it a shot. So they let us sell through their catalog.” That intuition turned out to be spot on. After being listed in the catalog, orders started pouring in.

Koyudo’s vice-president, Seiji Uematsu, told us, “The success of the Heart Brush marked a real turning point for Koyudo.” After finishing university, Mr. Uematsu worked at an apparel company for years. However, as the makeup brush industry began to grow, he returned to Kumano.

“The growth of the makeup brush business had a direct impact on Koyudo’s growth. That’s why I feel it was necessary to keep trying new things.” Koyudo’s big gamble was finding out how far their calligraphy brush experience could take them. “Our president said the Heart Brush would be a springboard for the company. Honestly, it was really just lucky. [laughter] But he really wanted to take that chance and turn it into something real,” said Mr. Uematsu.

In addition to managing the workshop and keeping things running smoothly, Mr. Uematsu is also closely involved in makeup brush development. Just like Koyudo, Mr. Uematsu also had a major turning point in his career. His work at Koyudo moved into a new phase with the 2011 debut of the “fu-pa” brush series.

“Once the production of the Heart Brush was on track, we felt like we needed to start work on the next thing, on a new product. At the time, other companies were also getting into the makeup brush space, and there were a lot of products coming out. I thought, ‘We can’t win with something like everyone else,’ so I was looking for a different kind of concept.”

What caught Mr. Uematsu’s attention was some makeup puffs and sponges covered in foundation and powder. “I don’t personally wear makeup. [laughter] But you know, when people do their makeup, they use puffs and sponges, right? Except I wondered whether that was really the best way to do it. If people were only using them because they were there, that would be a shame. So I started thinking about whether a brush could be more pleasant to use,” Mr. Uematsu told us.

One of the benefits of puffs and sponges is their feel on the skin. “Of course, brushes can also feel great on the skin. Goat hair is the perfect material to get a soft touch. But with only goat hair, something was missing. It was just my intuition, but I felt like using goat hair wasn’t enough to make people go out of their way to choose a brush. Then one of our workers suggested, ‘What about blending polyester fibers with the goat hair?’ and we gave it a try. We just thought that if we were going to make a brush, we should make a brush that feels even nicer than a makeup puff.”

They were also very careful about what shape the foundation brush would take. Usually, when you apply foundation, you apply it with the brush horizontal, perpendicular to the skin. But this brush is designed so that if you use it with the surface of the brush tilted so it’s flush against the skin, the foundation spreads more easily, without any streaking. “Brushes also help ensure that you don’t apply too much product. If a brush has bristles that hold powder properly, you can control how much ends up on your skin,” said Mr. Uematsu.

Development of the brush started with combining the feel on the skin and brush technique that Mr. Uematsu wanted. Without experience in making calligraphy, it’s impossible to make this kind of makeup brush. Of course, it would have been useless to simply apply those techniques without careful thinking. The key is to consider what you are using and how you use it.

“After that, our craftspeople just knocked it out of the park. [laughter] They worked out all the details by putting together some prototypes,” said Mr. Uematsu. Despite having no experience with making makeup brushes, they were inspired by the idea of “making a brush that had never been seen before.” You might think that it’s nothing more than a brush, but thanks to its comfort and feel, people who use this brush wouldn’t give it up for anything else.

The company also got lucky with the timing of the release, which coincided with trends changing to embrace a dewier makeup finish. To get that barely-there, natural look with a dewy finish, liquid foundation is a must. The makeup artists who were most popular in beauty media recommended a liquid foundation/makeup brush combo, which helped boost the profile of Koyudo’s makeup brushes. Their “fu-pa Mineral Foundation & BB Cream Brush” and “fu-pa Liquid Foundation Brush”turned into huge fan-favorites, and the Heart Brush helped continue that streak of hits.

Makeup brushes are continuing their takeover of the beauty world. “Putting it like this sounds like it’s really amazing, but we’re only doing what seems obvious,” Mr. Uematsu said. But, he continued, there’s one thing they can’t forget. “You have to understand the changing times.”

Koyudo has been keeping their eye on other countries for about ten years. The first break for Koyudo was a display at Taiwan SOGO’s Hiroshima Product Expo. “Customers responded really positively to our product. I really felt that Kumano brushes were something we could show off to the world.” Now, Koyudo brushes are making appearances across Asia, in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China. “We have wholesale arrangements in Singapore and Hong Kong, and sales are climbing. I think there’s plenty of room to grow overseas.”

Kumano brushes have their roots in traditional calligraphy, but do most young people today think Kumano is synonymous with makeup brushes?

“That might be the case, but of course Kumano brushes started as calligraphy brushes. There’s definitely a strong connection to calligraphy,” Mr. Tsuchiya said. “But you know, what we have to do is continue on with the technique and tradition for the next 100, even 200 years. And when you carry on a tradition, you have to do new things as well. You have to adapt techniques and ideas to meet modern needs in order to survive. I want us to stay dynamic and keep trying new things.”

Mr. Tsuchiya says ideas come from talking to others.

“Speaking with different people, making new Kumano brush products, collaborating with others. Of course we’ve also made more failed products than I can count. [laughter]”

He told us about one such failure, saying “I can probably talk about this now that it’s been a while. [laughter]” Timed to coincide with the 2008 Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit, the company released a brush made to look like one of Hokkaido’s unique exports, a marimo moss ball. “It was a total flop.” But not stopping there is typical of Mr. Tsuchiya.

“One time, one lot of marimo brushes came in with faded color. When I looked at the pieces that failed quality control, I thought, ‘Wait, what does that look like?’“ He remembered that the adorable appeal of the Heart Brush helped make it into a success.
“So, we changed the color of the marimo brush and made the handle of the brush into a flowerpot shape. We sold it under the name ‘Cactus Brush’. Before we knew it, it was a hit!” That’s the kind of imagination you can expect!

Over the years, Koyudo has cultivated a deep reservoir of skills and tradition, which Mr. Tsuchiya says must be adapted to meet the needs of the modern world. Does he think he can still find ways to surprise consumers? “Hmm. We’re about to do a collaboration with the Hibiyakadan florist company, which was inspired by our flower series of brushes. Something combining fresh-cut flowers with brushes is an interesting concept, right? The foundation of our creative process is using Kumano brushes to make people happy, and it’s the same in the beauty world.”

It’s clear that this passion for Kumano’s crafts runs deep. “Even if it’s just one person, I hope to help people learn about Kumano brushes and get people interested in Kumano as a city. I want to be able to give the children of Kumano a future that they can feel excited about. I want them to be proud of the city they live in and also of its brushes.”

The challenge that lies before Koyudo is to create a way for Kumano’s skills and culture to continue on into the future. More fun with makeup! What can we expect from Koyudo’s exciting brushes?

It’s no myth that a different brush can totally change how your makeup turns out. What’s more, choosing the right the bristle material for your makeup can have some surprising results! And even with the right materials, there’s a lot to think about. Let’s take a look at 6 different brushes for foundation, face powder, cheeks, eye shadow, brows, and the lips.

Bristles: goat hair, PBT (polyester)
Description: Applies liquid foundations without any streaking, creating a lovely, even finish. Most highly-demanded product. Compared to a powder or cheek brush, many foundation brushes have shorter bristles with a flat surface.

Face Powder
Bristles: squirrel, goat hair
Description: Often uses soft squirrel hair to envelop the skin with a soft, fluffy touch. Holds the right amount of powder, allowing you to create a radiant finish by using small circular motions.

Bristles: goat hair, squirrel
Description: For creating a healthy, natural flush like you’ve just stepped out of the shower, a brush with short, hard bristles would be no good. Cheek and blush brushes with longer goat or squirrel hair allow you to control pigmentation, making these brushes your top choice.

Eye Shadow
Bristles: goat hair, squirrel, Kolinsky sable
Description: It’s best to use soft bristles on the thin, delicate skin around the eyes. Goat hair and squirrel are gentle on the skin, so you can apply your makeup without damaging the skin.

Bristles: Kolinsky sable, badger, pahmi (ferret badger)
Description: Because you’re applying product over your own brows, stiffer brushes with some flexibility make it easier to reach the skin underneath. Made with mainly water badger hair, which is comparatively short.

Bristles: Kolinsky sable
Description: When you’re trying to get a defined line around the lips, springy, flexible Kolinsky sable and weasel hair are the perfect choice.

There probably aren’t many people who know the best way to care for their makeup brushes. We went straight to a professional makeup brush craftsman to find out the best way to care for your brushes.

Q1: What’s the best way to clean your brush? Makeup remover, soap, or shampoo?

It’s soap. Mild bar soap is the best, actually. After washing the brush with soap, rinse it with plenty of lukewarm water, then let the brush dry in a place with good ventilation. I would use one of those clamp-style clothes hangers to hang the brush from its handle, and then let the brush dry out of direct sunlight.

Q2: How often should you wash your brushes?

You don’t need to wash them every time you do your makeup. It’s fine to wash them whenever you feel like they’re getting dirty.

Q3: How can you make brushes last longer?

You can lengthen the lifespan of your brushes by taking care of them after use.
For liquid products, wipe off excess product with a tissue or something.
For powder products, use the palm or back of your hand to remove leftover powder.

Q4: How do you recommend storing brushes?

It’s best to keep your brushes somewhere with lower humidity, in order to maintain the shape of the brush. Also, you should keep brushes out of direct sunlight in order to prevent damage to the handle of the brush.

【Nozomu Kajiyama】
Born in Kumano city. The 57th head priest of Sakakiyama Shrine in Kumano city. With a main shrine built in the Edo era, and a front shrine completed during the Meiji period, Sakakiyama Shrine is home to a sacred Japanese cedar tree that is said to be over 800 years old. This tree is linked to all of the festivals held at Sakakiyama Shrine.

【Kentarou Miyawaki】
Head of PR for Fudenosato Kobo. Works at Fudenosato Kobo to spread the word about Kumano brushes and the beauty of calligraphic culture.

【Takemi Tsuchiya】
President of Koyudo. Studied and worked abroad, giving him a global perspective that helps him see things in a unique way. Came to Kumano after marrying and found work at Koyudo. He commented, “It’s been 18 years now, so I’ve lived here longer than I did in my hometown.” He told us he plans to continue finding new solutions for Kumano city.

【Seiji Uematsu】
Vice-president of Koyudo. After graduating university, he worked for an apparel company. In 2004, he returned to Kumano and began working with Koyudo. He personally led the development of the “fu-pa” brush series, which contributed greatly to the company’s makeup brush sales. “It’s a product line that always goes back to the roots of our craftsmanship.”

【Masahiro Kotorida】
Qualified as a traditional craftsman in 2010, turns 79 this year. He could talk your ear off about Kumano brushes, which he does whenever he mentors younger brush makers. Mr. Kotorida is still working hard, saying “Kumano brushes are the best in Japan, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep refining our skills and technique.”

Photograph/Daichi Saito
Interview&Text/Mayumi Hasegawa

※Our pages are translations of articles published on Japan's @cosme. All products introduced in the articles are sold in Japan.