I found out about this brush making experience from the brush company Koyudo when I was doing research last year (2018) for Fude Matsuri. I keyed in the hashtag #FudeMatsuri on the search bar on Instagram. There were only a few posts. Some were from Sonia G. and some were from AkahanaManila. It was through AkahanaManila’s post I saw that Koyudo has the said activity.
I went on full research mode and found the Japanese website of Koyudo (I only found the English website when I started writing this blog). Thankfully for me, google was able to translate the page to simple English. I found the link to their brush making experience and factory tour. Yes, they offer factory tours and that got me quite excited! I quickly sent them an inquiry through the “Contact Us” button and waited for their reply.
Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any. I constantly checked my email after arriving in Osaka to see if I got a reply, but alas there was none. I sent my inquiry in English which I think was the problem.
This year (2019), while I was planning my trip to attend Fude Matsuri, I wanted to make sure that this time, I would be able to do the brush making experience in Koyudo.
A month before I was to fly to Osaka, I decided to email them again. With the aid of Google translate and “copy paste”, I sent them an email in Japanese. I received a reply a day after, which I “copy paste” to Google translate ~ I was booked! By the way, you have to book this activity in advance – up until 24 hours before your desired schedule.
I arrived at the Koyudo factory a little past 9:30 in the morning. It was a Friday. The brush festival was happening that Sunday. My brush making experience was scheduled to be at 10 am. I think they weren’t expecting me to arrive so early because as soon as I introduced myself, a few people went into a slight frenzy. I was met by a lovely woman named Satoko. She is under the International Business Division, who was kind enough to be my translator that morning. She told me that I am to do the brush making activity first before the factory tour.
Most of the people I have interacted with in Kumano for the past two years are pleasantly surprised to find a Filipino is in Kumano, hopping from one brush company to another. Their eyes widen when I tell them I’m in town for the brush festival. It was the same reaction I got when I told the staff in Koyudo why I was there that weekend.
I was ushered into what was called the Keisuke Hall. It is a relatively simple room with tables and chairs. This is where the brush making activity happens. I was the only one booked that morning.
There is a male staff member, whose name eludes me – let’s call him Sensei, who does the demonstration.
It all starts with choosing the color of your brush head. There’s Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple. I chose Pink. The hair is pre-prepared for you. This experience does not include choosing, segregating and preparing the hair.
You are then given a mould, it is called “Koma”. This is what gives the brush head it’s design. For this particular experience, it is a Rose-shaped koma – a Koyudo trademark. Sensei starts the brush making process and it is important that you observe him because you are to “mirror” his movements. Satoko-chan was beside me the entire time – translating and describing what Sensei was doing.
When the hairs are in the koma, you start to tap it on the table. You have to tap it in a constant rhythm. This motion is what forms the design.
It’s very fascinating to see the process. From birds eye view , the hair looks “flat”. As you continuously “tap” the mould on the table, the hairs start to take shape. It’s as if the Rose is “blooming” right before your very eyes.
The mould has a design at the bottom of the pan. The tapping or shaking moves the hairs around filling in the space. In a sense, this is how brush heads are formed for makeup brushes. I have seen a few videos on Youtube showing this process.
Once the Rose has “bloomed” you are instructed to remove it from the koma and to press it between your forefinger and thumb. With your free hand, you are the told to move the hair in a clockwise and counter-clockwise motion. This is to straighten the hairs that might have had landed at a bad angle.
The hairs are then returned to the koma and is tied with a string. You tie the string around the now formed brush head twice. You can see in the video above, Sensei assisted me while I was tying the string.
And we’re done.
The gluing of the hairs and the attaching of the brush head to the brush handle is done by Sensei. I have been told that it is a difficult process and should be done by a trained professional. I’m also sure that there are trade secrets involved that they need to safe keep. It’s totally understandable.
The brush making activity took about 45 minutes.
So, while my brush was being secured to its handle, I went on to do the factory tour.
Satoko-chan introduced me to Ai-chan. She was the one in charge of showing me around the Koyudo factory. I would like to give my kudos to Satoko-chan because she was very pleasant and very patient in translating everything.
I have learned that production of brushes in Kumano began during the Edo Period (1830’s). Famers made brushes during the winter months to supplement their living. Today, there are about 100 brush related companies in Kumano. Of those 100, there are only 3 companies that make makeup and calligraphy brushes. Koyudo is one of those three.
The building has two floors. On the first floor, aside from the Keisuke Hall, there are office spaces, production spaces and the store. The second floor is where 90% of the space is dedicated to making brushes. Photography is not permitted and I do not want to describe the space in detail out of respect for the company. But I have to say, I was truly amazed to see in detail the production process of making hand made brushes. From raw materials, to actual brush making, to quality control, to packaging, to delivery. Seeing the process gave my relationship with my brushes a whole new meaning.
The factory tour took approximately 30 minutes. By the time we finished, my brush was ready to be picked up.
As you can see, the complete brush design is very kawaii. It looks like a rose on a flower pot.
I forgot to mention earlier that, you can have your name engraved unto the brush handle. I asked if it was possible to engrave my Japanese name in Katakana. After double checking, I was told that it was. And so, if you look closely at the picture from my Instagram page above, that is my name in Japanese and it is pronounced as “Toa”.
Before leaving the factory, I made a beeline for the store and purchased a few brushes. That would be another post.
Here are some details about this activity.
The brush making experience will cost ¥3000. That’s roughly around $30 USD or ₱1500.
The brush head is made of dyed goat hair and the handle is made of natural wood.
You can check the Koyudo Japanese website by clicking here.
You can check the Koyudo English website by clicking here.
The factory tour is free.
4-7 Hiratani, Kumano-cho, Aki-gun, Hiroshima 731-4229
TEL 082-516-6418 FAX 082-516-6408
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/post is not sponsored. The products that are shown here are the products that I always use, love and live by.
The videos and pictures were shot using my Iphone 7.
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