Hello everyone! Seeing all the beautiful photos and looks fellow bloggers shared with you, I am sure you haven't missed me. Just to let you know though, I am back! I had an amazing time and crazy hauls, so expect to see some Japanese make-up in the coming weeks. I am fighting with jet lag at the moment and sometimes what I say/write doesn't make sense. Nevertheless I will try my best today to bring Kumano, the brush city of Japan to you.
A few minutes before 7am we were rushing to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Kyoto. I ordered the Japanese breakfast set as my husband enjoyed the croissants which were offered with the western style breakfast. Nevertheless I stole his bacons and add on my rice. On a short notice we managed to reserve seats for Shinkansen to Hiroshima and train leaves at 8:27am. I couldn't wait to see how softest brushes come alive in hands of brush artists. Needless to say we were so excited. Chikuhodo was kind enough to invite us for a tour to their factory in Kumano. After the fastest breakfast ever, we caught the subway to Kyoto main station and let the adventure begin.
|Some Chikuhodo Brushes as shown in the small museum corner by the office|
Yutaro Takemori, the son of CEO of Chikuhodo, Shin Takemori was kind enough to pick us up from the train since it is a little tricky to reach Kumano by public transport. He can speak English very good and explained us every step of the procedure and answered all our crazy questions. Many thanks to Yutaro for taking his time for us.
|Yutaro Takemori in front of the door of Chikuhodo factory store.|
To see how the brushes are being made was another dimension of knowledge. It certainly changed the way I look at and examine brushes. This is why I would like to share it with you and hope you will enjoy it too.
Everything starts with hairs. The hairs are aligned as shows below and one side of the hair is left uncut since the natural end of the bristles are softer and not scratchy.
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Hairs aligned and ready to be mixed|
The long band in this machine aims to mix bristles in a homogeneous way and has to run several times to assure that they are nicely mixed. This procedure is needed for brushes made of more than one type of hair, such as goat and squirrel mixed. But Yutaro explained us also for the brushes which are made of one particular type of hair, this is done to assure that the end quality doesn't get effected by a batch of hair which was different than the other batches. So typically different rows are being mixed.
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Machine for mixing hair homogenously|
After the mixture of satisfactory, hairs are grouped together as shown below by wrapping some paper and a band around them. Here my hubby asked how they can assure that all the ends are indeed the natural ends but not the cut ends. Although I was rolling my eyes, it turned out to be a good question. The next step makes sure this doesn't happen...
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Hairs are grouped for brushes|
By means of a special knife, a very well trained worker can skim the bad quality hair as well as ones with wrong directional. It looked like a very hard thing to do given you only have one tool. Yutaro told us that one needs several years to learn to apply this step .
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Seperating the wrong ends or bad quality hair.|
Here is a video to show you how much care has to be given to each and every brush to make sure the bristles are all aligned and have the same thickness.
Below you can see a batch of hair before and after this procedure. It was amazing to see how much difference it makes. Since the ends are not supposed to be cut, this step is very crucial to a good crafted hand made brush.
|Hair batch before (right) and after (left) the separation process|
After hair is mixed and grouped, it is time to give them some shape. For each brush there is a mould which is designed and realized in the factory as well. The bristles are lied inside the mould before they are tied. Below you can see the moulds for a powder (top left), a cheek (top right), an eye brush (bottom left) and an eye liner brush (bottom right).
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Different moulds for different type of brushes|
After the hair is shaped using the mould and tied by a string as shown below, the end shape has to be given to the brush. This step is done exclusively with hand. You can see that the tied bristles are always round. So for flat brushes this has to be modified by rolling the batch as shown in the video below.
|Bristles are given a shape by using the mould and tied|
At this point we also asked how they managed to make an "angled brush" out of this straight round shape. It turns out that by the way an expert rolls it, it can also be turned to a angled brush.
Since the bristles are now ready, it is time for them to marry their long awaited ferrule. At this step the ferrule is being prepared by inserting the right amount of glue inside.
|Inserting glue inside the ferrule before it is combined with the bristles|
There is an interesting step how bristles get in the ferrule. I made a video of this one for you. By means of a string, they are pulled and fixed.
After the bristles are in the ferrule, now it is time to marry them with the handles, which is being done in the photo below. This is the end step of your cuddly soft brush.
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Ferrule and handles are being combined|
More than 100 people work for Chikuhodo Kumano factory, most of them are women. They provided us such a lovely cheerful company.
|Making of Japanese Brushes: Last steps of the brush making with cheerful woman workers|
If you ever drop by Kumano, you can go to the factory shop and get to play with all the fluffy brushes. I think at this point I was loosing myself, good that hubby reminded me that I can't buy everything. I tried to be reasonable but it was not easy. I am sure you can relate. I will review the brushes I have picked up soon. I have already shared the spring set with you at Instagram.
|Factory shop, Chikuhodo, Kumano|
After the tour I had the pleasure to meet Chairman Tessyhu Takemori who is the one to start the mass production of Chikuhodo make-up brushes in the beginning of 1970s and the artist behind the new creations such as their Noel Limited Sets for Christmas and many more. I would like to thank Chikuhodo family for their warm welcome and their time and hospitality. It was an unforgettable day in Kumano.
|Chikuhodo Kumano, group photo|
As I mentioned earlier, to see the production of brushes changed the way I look at them for good. Now I can appreciate a good aligned and nicely shaped brush. Each time we asked a question, we could feel how detailed each step has to be planned. From where to tie a batch to how to roll and how to fix the handle, there are countless details to consider for each brush, depending on the brush type and hair mixture type.
Oh, I have just seen this, now CD Japan is selling Chikuhodo as well, and the prices are the same as at Chikuhodo's website!
As a reference Chikuhodo Z-2 Highlighter brush is 7000 JPY at Chikuhodo Website and 7000 JPY at CD Japan, which delivers internationally. 7000 PJY is around $60 at the moment. The same brush is $78 at Beautylish website, who has to of course import the brushes and has probably additional costs. Remember you may have to pay additional taxes and shipping depending on your location so check out which of the options are better for you. For those of us in Europe, I believe CD Japan would almost always be a better deal.