Some time in 2013, I was busy researching online for Japanese makeup brushes when I bumped into an article entitled “With Life on Paper – Kumano Fude Festival” written by Paul Walsh for GetHiroshima.com. I was amazed to have read that a small town located 20 kilometres east of Hiroshima had a brush festival. Every year since then, I would plan to visit; but it never pushes through. Over the years, I have managed to collect information about the festival – how to get there and what to expect.
I was so ready to be there.
In early April of this year ,while randomly checking out flights, Cebu Pacific Air had an amazing flight deal that I could not resist. I decided to go for it.
Around September 4th, My plans were suddenly put on hold because Typhoon Jebi passed through Japan and caused wide-spread damage. Typhoon Jebi was a very strong typhoon, a Category 5 Hurricane on the SSHWS.
This typhoon flooded my port of entry, Kansai Airport. The winds were so strong that it blew a fuel tanker into the rail and road bridge, the sole link, that connects the artificial island airport to mainland Osaka. Destroying a 100 meter slab of roadway and moving the rail tracks 50 cm inward. This made Kansai airport inaccessible.
For three weeks, all flights to Osaka were cancelled. I had two options:
- Move my Fude Matsuri plans to 2019.
- Reroute my flight to Tokyo or Nagoya.
I was ready to reroute my flight and I had already plotted my train journey to the festival from both cities. Fortunately, three days before my scheduled flight, Kansai International Airport announced that they would resume airport operations and that the railway system would be up and running by then.
On September 21, 2018 at 2:55 PM, my Cebu Pacific Air Flight 5J 828 left on time from Manila bound for Osaka.
It was quite a journey to get to the festival.
After having spent the whole day of September 22nd sight-seeing in Kyoto, I took a nearly 3 hour bullet train ride from Osaka to Hiroshima. For travelers out there, do take note that you cannot ride the bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima on your JR West Pass, you can only do so if you hold a JR National Rail Pass. You have to take the local rapid train service from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka. You are able to take ANY of the bullet trains from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima Station.
The following day was Fude Matsuri.
From my hostel, I walked to Hiroshima Station and took a 15 minute train ride to Yano Station on the Kure Line bound for Hiro.
Once I got to Yano station, I had a few problems locating the Yano Ekimae bus stop because my goggle maps was f-ing up. The data from my pocket wifi was not at it’s best given my current location.
After walking a few meters and asking a Japanese man, he pointed me to the bus stop. It was right at the foot of the stairs of Yano Station. *laughs*
The bus stop had a small electronic billboard. It shows you what bus stops there, what time they are expected to arrive and depart… all written in Japanese (Kanji+Hiragana+Katana).
I have had 10 years of Chinese classes during grade school and high school and I am very good at the game “spot the difference”, so comparing the characters on my phone to the ones stated on the schedules was a challenge I did not back down from.
Once I had an idea on which bus to take, to be sure, I asked the Japanese girl in front of me if this was the bus stop for Fude Matsuri. Lucky for me, she spoke English and told me that I was at the right place. Her name was Del and she was also bound for the festival. Del was kind enough to share with me some information about the festival. She had a map at hand and she showed me the places of interest around the Brush Museum and the festival proper.
A bus was arriving at the station and I noticed that the signboard showed the English translation of the bus route. I asked Del, if I could just follow her until we got to the festivities and she had no problem with that at all. Everybody hopped unto the bus and off we went.
The bus brought us to Kumano-eigyosho station. From there, we rode a free shuttle service to Fudenosato Kobo, the brush museum. This was where my Fude Matsuri adventure began.
Fudenosato Kobo is a facility that was built by the town of Kumano in 1994 and the Fudenosato Promotion Foundation runs it. According to the flyer, “The museum engages in investigative research on the history of Japanese brush-making and the collation of such materials, as well as introducing the culture intertwined with brushes against the background of Japan’s biggest collection of brushes, in both qualitative and quantitative terms.”
I have learned that Fude making in Kumano began during the late Edo period (late 1800’s) when farmers began to create brushes during the winter season to supplement their farming income. Over the years – centuries even, the town became well-known for their brushes. In 1975, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated the Kumano Fude as a traditional craft product.
I spent a little over an hour in the museum, wandering around, taking everything in. The permanent gallery is located at the basement, right after you come down from the stairs. There are 5 galleries around it where exhibitions are held. There is a “house” of brush masters where you can learn how to create your own calligraphy brush (For 3000 Yen) or observe the masters at work. There is a tea house, Shoseian, that offers tea ceremonies and classes and an area where painting classes are also held. I like the “hands on” part of the museum. Interaction is always the key.
The museum houses all of the brushes made in Kumano; may it be for calligraphy, crafts, makeup, painting, dyeing, etc. They also have brushes and paintings from masters of old on display at various galleries. I spent a good amount of time by the makeup brushes, mesmerised by their beauty.
I bought some brushes at the Kumanofude Select Shop Main Store. As stated in my video, it was located on the first floor – to the right of the entrance door.
There were many brushes available to purchase here. I had to stop myself from buying a lot because I had yet to visit the stalls at Fude Matsuri. I felt that I would have more choices there and as Del told me earlier, many brush companies offer their brushes at a discounted rate, between 30-50 percent.
I left the museum at around noon. Thankfully, it was also a cloudy day because I could only imagine how hot it would be if the sun was out. I walked through a small paved country road lined with houses, flora, fauna and grave yards.
I first heard the music. Then I saw lots of people in a clearing at the bottom of the hill. As I got closer, the music got louder and the aroma of food got to me. It was time for lunch. The home-made ramen that I had was so good and I will not forget that delicious fresh strawberry shake ever! I enjoyed my lunch over the pleasant live music that was played, while sharing a table with local Japanese teenage girls. I observed everyone around me. If you want to see videos, go to the highlight bar on my instagram page (here) and click on Fude Matsuri.
As you saw in my video, I was welcomed by big brushes hanging from the torii of Sakakiyama Shrine. According to the Japan Times article “Sweeping Beauties of Kumano’s Brush Area” written by Steve John Powell and Angeles Marine Cabello, “The heart of the festival is the 10th-century Sakakiyama Shrine. Like many old shrines, it lies at the top of a steep hill. It’s 99 steps to the top, up a path known as Brush Avenue, which is festooned with 10,000 brushes — some pencil-thin, others as big as brooms — hanging down around head-height.”
Anybody can touch and feel these hanging brushes.
There were tons of activities around Sakakiyama Shrine (see the 4:38 minute mark on my video). At around 2 pm (the 16 minute mark on my video), the highlight of the festival started. I found a spot by the rope railings and enjoyed the demonstration of a calligraphy master writing poetry on a tarpaulin using a very big fude. He dipped the fude on a wooden bucket filled with ink. This wooden bucket is held by a man who followed the calligraphy master as he wrote on the tarpaulin. There was also another man who held another wooden bucket, I noticed that this was where the calligraphy master would “unload” the extra ink dripping from his fude before he starts writing again.
There was also a flute master who timed his music to the brush strokes made by sensei. It was quite dramatic actually.
Once the performance was through, the staff waited for the ink to dry before the tarpaulin was hanged for every one to see.
This happens every year. New calligraphy master, new poetry.
While waiting in between performances, I’ve managed to find a seat by the shade and had a most delicious snack. It was a pancake of fish design with red bean paste inside. I was debating whether I would have the skewered octopus tentacles or candied apples after. I decided to have some shaved ice with cherry syrup instead.
The next performance was by students from the local school; that would be the 17:07 mark on my video. I was excited for their Taiko drum performance. I’ve never seen one before, so this was a treat for me.
The brushes I bought at the festival were not a lot. The primary reason I was there was not to go shopping, but to experience the festival. To immerse myself in the fude culture and to enjoy being “there”.
Frankly, buying brushes in a brush festival can make your brain go haywire. *laughs* I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of beautiful brushes + I was not expecting to see so many brush companies in Kumano. It’s a good thing I already had an idea of the brushes that I needed. If not, I would buy anything on a whim! *laughs* I did manage to buy a few brushes on a whim.
Before leaving the festivities, as I said on the video (see the 5:22 mark), people believe in the ritual burning of old brushes. Let me clarify what I said in the video. What I meant to say was, I couldn’t bear to burn makeup brushes. I either pass them down or use them in a different way. But people in Kumano believe that, burning old brushes is a way of thanking them. For the sake of experience, I did burn some old brushes. There is a staff member of the festival who will offer you some brushes to burn. On his table, there are a number of brushes of various sizes and shape. I think this was collected from various fude masters, gentlefolk or maybe from various companies who needed to send their brushes to heaven.
I am so glad to have made this journey. This was a great introduction. I’m sure when I return, I wouldn’t be like a kid inside a candy store.
Here’s one funny story. Jennylyn Mercado was a guest at MARS a few years back. We’re always friendly towards each other. Saying our “hi’s”, “hello’s” and “how are yous”, after which I give her space. I was observing her from a far, checking out her makeup stuff from across the room when she suddenly whipped out vermillion coloured brushes. I dunno if my gasp was audible, but I did a bee line to her desk and ransacked her makeup kit and pulled out her brushes. Of course I asked permission! *laughs* That was my first time to hold Hakuhodo brushes.
I have been very intrigued by the Hakuhodo brand for quite some time. I would frequently visit their website time and again just to “check” them out. There was one time, I was in Los Angeles and I wanted to visit the main showroom in Torrance, but it was just so far from Downtown L.A. It’s not exactly easy to commute in America. I wanted to visit their flagship store in Kyoto too, but I ran out of time sight-seeing while I was there.
On my final morning in Hiroshima, I found myself at Yano Station waiting for the bus that would take me to the Hakuhodo head office. I am thankful that I was able to take the local bus two days prior during Fude Matsuri. I was now confident enough to go down one bus stop and walk through the Japanese country side. Check out my Hakuhodo highlight on my instagram page (here).
45 minutes later, I found myself at the Kumanohagiwara Bus stop. With the help of goggle maps, I walked for 20 minutes +- to the Hakuhodo head office. It was around 1.1 kilometres.
Walking up the road, the only sign I saw that made me realize that I had found Hakuhodo was when I saw the brand’s logo on the building. As I walked up the stairs to the main entrance, there was beautiful pocket garden to my left. It was illuminated beautifully by the sun. It had a small “house” with a small pond. I found that quite surprising because the building looked so unremarkable. I found out a little while later that that small “house” was the office of the President. Who, by the way, works every day and individually checks brushes to maintain the Hakuhodo quality.
The head office and showroom is on the second floor of the building, across the President’s office. As soon as you opened the door, everybody would greet you. I have emailed the head office months in advance asking them if I could visit and do some shopping. I was welcomed.
Marie, a cute Japanese lady assisted me while I was going around the showroom. She was very surprised to have found out the I was Filipino. I was even more surprised to have found out that she studied in Las Salle a while back for six months. What a small world!
Marie and I discussed about the brushes in the showroom. They had entry-level brushes, professional brushes, traditional brushes and their flagship brush range. I was very interested in purchasing brushes from the flagship brush range, the S100 Vermillion Brush Range.
We also discussed the varieties of natural hairs used in their brushes. We also discussed the specific hairs that were used on the brushes that I chose to purchase. It was a very interesting interaction. Illuminating and educating.
I was very specific about the brushes I purchased in Hakuhodo. Since it was my first time to use their products, I only choose the very basic brushes that I needed. Two traditional brushes, two blush brushes and four eye shadow brushes. I cannot wait to use them and see how they perform. Then, if I am satisfied, I would add more to my collection.
I spent a good 45 minutes at the Hakuhodo head office. I could have spent all day there but alas I cannot. With my Hakuhodo paper bag in hand, I thanked everybody at the head office, most especially Marie for taking care of me.
I then re-traced my steps to the bus stop. Took the 45 minute bus ride back to the train station. Took a 30 minute train ride to Hiroshima, just in time to catch by 3 pm bullet train to Osaka.
Through all of my readings and research, I found out that the hair is sourced from all over the world. China, North America and Russia. Fude companies in Kumano may use Red Squirrel, Blue Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, Kolinsky, Sable, Badger, Weasel, Tamage, Goat, Horse, or synthetic hair on their brushes. The sorting, mixing, and forming of the hair on the brush is done in Kumano. All by hand. The handles are made in other prefectures in Japan. Assembling the brush is also done by hand.
If you are reading this, I hope you would come to appreciate your brushes. It is a must that you take care of your brushes. A lot of human effort is used in creating a makeup brush.
Here are the links to the different brush companies mention in this post:
Kumano, Aki, Hiroshima Japan
Hiroshima is located 325 Kilometres from Osaka. Prior to flying into Osaka, I purchased a JR West Pass. This entitled me to ride on the JR West Rail system for 5 days. The JR West Pass allows me unlimited travel from Kansai Airport to Osaka, To Kyoto, To Nara, and Hiroshima. For more information about the JR West Pass, click here.
Let me say that the products I am using has worked for me and it might not necessarily work for you. Always be discerning when purchasing cosmetics or skin care products. Always read the label and the literature! Always do a patch test before you purchase a product for the first time to see that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients listed.
This video is not sponsored. The products that are shown here are the products that I always use, love and live by.
This video was shot using the front camera of my Iphone 7.
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