Who better to learn from than the very best?

Most Japanese people aren’t unaccustomed to handling a calligraphy brush, as the majority of them are taught to use them in elementary school. Many aren’t familiar with how to make them, though. That’s what our Japanese-language reporter Egawa Tasuku set out to do, but he didn’t want to go just anywhere–he wanted to go to Kumanofude, one of the most well-known brush makers in Japan.

▼ You won’t find them downtown, though.

Kumanofude’s brush making workshop is located in the mountains of Hiroshima Prefecture, in the sparsely-populated town of Kumano. Despite being so rural, Kumano has an impressive calligraphy brush museum called Fudenosao Kobo.

▼ This giant brush greets you at the entrance.

Along with displaying the history of the Kumanofude brush-making craft, there’s a huge array of brushes you can buy in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors.

▼ How are you supposed to choose?

▼ They also have many makeup brushes.

After arriving, Tasuku headed to the museum’s brush making workshop. The process is divided into into two parts: wrapping the bristles around the neck of the brush, and then finishing it off.

Photo provided by Hiroshima Prefecture

▼ It costs 3,500 yen (US$24) per person and takes about an hour.

He was shown to a tatami room for the workshop. At one end of the room was a brush crafter, steadily working, who you’re free to watch.

▼ He was so efficient that Tasuku was left speechless.

▼ Just look at that speed! That deftness!

▼ And before he knew it, a brush was done.

One by one, the master made calligraphy brushes. Fun fact: the makeup brushes are made by a different craftsman as they require different techniques to create.

▼ But today, Tasuku chose a calligraphy brush.

Finally, Tasuku was ready to make his own brush. Having no prior experience in brush making, he found it difficult to line up all of the bristles and keep them straight as he glued and wrapped them around the neck of the brush.

When Tasuku showed his initial attempt to the master, he was told “It’s not straight,” and that it wouldn’t produce the proper strokes when dipped with ink. Even though this was a do-it-yourself class, the instructors still take pride in their role and want to make sure everyone goes home with a quality brush, so they provided Tasuku with a lot of hands-on help as he was learning.

Tasuku found the finishing part most interesting. It involved dipping the brush over and over into a bowl of paste…

▼ …but it was more like violently stabbing than dipping.

He was concerned during the demonstration at how rough the instructor was on the bristles.

▼ Brushes aren’t so delicate, it turns out.

This is done to ensure that the paste reaches all the way to the neck; otherwise, the brush will have a much shorter lifespan.

▼ Tasuku was told to soak the bristles in paste until the brush was able to stand up on its own, as a frame of reference.

The amount of paste would explain why the brand-new brushes he used in school were so stiff, Tasuku realized.

Along with the brush making workshop, a free calligraphy lesson, where you’ll be taught how to write your name beautifully using a brush, is also offered at the museum on Saturdays and Sundays.

▼ The calligraphy lesson lasts up to 30 minutes.

If you’re in Hiroshima, Tasuku thinks the brush-making workshop is a great experience–and you get to take your brush home!

Museum information
Fudenosato Kobo / 筆の里工房
Address: Hiroshima-ken, Aki-gun, Kumano-cho Nakamizo 5-17-1
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m)
(brush making workshop is from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
Closed Mondays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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