Fude Calligraphy Brushes

Kumano Fude

Kumano town in home to the Kumano brush “fude”, a traditional brush with a history of 180 years; about 80% of the total domestic production takes place here. The Fudenosato Kobo facility plays a central role in presenting the local characteristics that go into the brushes.

The town of Kumano is located at small field basin surrounded by mountains with their heights around 500 meters above sea level. The town is long and narrow stretching from north to south, and surrounded by three cities: Hiroshima, Kure, and Higashi-Hiroshima.

Among its population of over 25,000, 1,500 people are craftsmen called "Fude-shi" engaged in Fude manufacturing. Also, Kumano has twenty highly skilled craftsmen who passed an official test and were designated as masters in traditional Fude making by the traditional crafts industry law (This law was made to promote the traditional Japanese crafts.). For the materials used for Fude, animal hair of goats, horses, weasels, deer, and raccoons are mainly used.

Around the end of 18th century (late Edo period), people of Kumano were having a hard time making a living just from farming, partly because of the fact that there wasn't much flat land for agriculture. They started purchasing Fude and sumi ink from Nara region, and reselling them during the agricultural off-season. That was the beginning of the close relationship between the town of Kumano and Fude.

Then about 180 years ago, with Hiroshima clan's encouragement of crafts and a prospect of selling Fude and sumi ink all over the country, they seriously set out to learn Fude-making skills.

The pioneers of Fude making in Kumano were young villagers. They learned the skills from Fude craftsmen who were invited to Kumano to teach, and also some of them were sent to Nara prefecture or Arima of Hyogo prefecture where advanced Fude-making skills were available.

And later, with villagers' efforts and enthusiasm Fude making skills was firmly established in Kumano. When school system was set up in 1872 and four years of education became mandatory in 1900, the use of Fude in school education contributed to the significant increase of Kumano's Fude production. 

After World War II, Shuuji (Japanese calligraphy) classes were deleted from the school curriculum, and their production of calligraphy Fude has dropped at one period. However, around 1955 , they started a production of Fude for painting and Fude for makeup, and in 1975, for the first time in Hiroshima prefecture, the Fude of Kumano was designated as one of the Japanese traditional crafts by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Today, Kumano's share of domestic Fude production has increased to 80 % not only in calligraphy Fude but also in Fude for painting and Fude for makeup. This tradition of Fude making of Kumano is still being passed down from one generation to the next.

The Process of making a brush:


1 "Senmo" "Kegumi"

The Fude making process begins with choosing the right hair. After the right hair is selected, its length and quality are adjusted depending on the surface the tip of the Fude will come into contact with. The most suitable hair is picked out by hands from one cluster of hair at a time. This is an extremely delicate process and said to take a few decades of experience to distinguish the right material with perfect accuracy.







2 "Hinoshi" "Kemomi"

Now the selected hair goes through a process called “ Kemomi”. Kemomi is a process of removing the oil and dirt from the animal hair to refine the quality of the hair. This is an essential process to make the hair absorb sumi ink well.

Next, the hair is cut to length, and rice-hull ash is sprinkled over it. Then, hot iron called “Hinoshi” is applied to the hair. The temperature of Hinoshi and how long it will be applied are slightly adjusted depending on the type of hair used. After that, the hair is quickly wrapped in deer skin, and massaged well. The most careful attention was paid in the process so that not to bend the hair.

By applying the heat and massaging the hair, natural oil and dirt get removed.







3 "Ke-soroe" (Setting the hair)

The hair is combed well and any loose fluff was taken out. Then the hair is stacked flat in layers by a small cluster at a time. The hair is combed many times in order to enhance the quality of the hair.



4"Sakage" "Surege-tori"

Removing the hair facing wrong direction / damaged hair. The hair is trimmed straight at the end, and by feeling the hair with hands, any hair in the wrong direction or damaged hair is picked out and removed by a small knife called “Hanzashi”, so that only the hair with good quality remains.







5 "Sungiri"

The Fude head can be divided into five parts. The very tip of the Fude head is called “Inochi-ge”(life-hair), then the part little above that is “Nodo”(throat), the middle section of the Fude head is “Kata” (shoulder), the part closer to the root is “Hara” (abdomen) and the very root of the Fude head is “Koshi”(waist)

“Sungiri” is a process of cutting the hair into the different sizes of these five parts. A special tool called Sungi, which is cut to the required length of each part, is used as a scale to cut the hair with the end of the hair as a baseline. The process of cutting the hair is done very carefully and slowly by making sure if the end of the hair is cut completely even. After the hair is cut into the lengths of the five different parts, it is now mixed and put together as one bundle called “Kure”.



6 Neri-maze (Mixing)

“Neri-maze” is a process of arranging the hair by soaking it in the water, so that there will be no irregularity when the hair is put together as a Fude head. The “Kure” is taken apart and the hair is laid flat thinly. Then the hair is mixed well by repeatedly folding it. Any unusable hair is removed, and the hair is trimmed and combed. The quality of the hair is examined thoroughly, and the hair is glued together with “Funori” (seaweed glue) and laid out flat and put together as a flat sheet called “Hirame”.

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7 “Shintate” (Making the core of Fude)

“Shintate” is a process of forming the hair into the shape of a Fude head. Hirame was divided into separate clusters, each with enough amount of hair to make up one Fude. Then, a cluster of hair is inserted into the Fude collar called “Koma”, and the hair was made into the shape of Fude of appropriate size, which forms a core of the Fude head.

Unnecessary hair is again taken out by hands.

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8 “Koromo-ge”

The hair wrapped around the core of a Fude head is called “Koromoge”. The hair selected for “Koromoge” is of better quality than the hair used for the Fude head. After the hair for “Koromoge” went through the same processes as the core of Fude head, the Koromoge is ready to be wrapped around the core.

Putting the Koromoge evenly around the core of a Fude head requires the most sophisticated skills. After the Koromoge is nicely put on the Fude head, it is dried naturally. Then the dried Fude head is tied with linen thread at the root.


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9 “Itojime” (Tying the thread)

After the knot at the end of the thread is singed and firmly secured, the Fude head is complete.

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10 “Kankomi” (Inserting a Fude head into a Fude handle)

“Kankomi” is a process of inserting the Fude head into a Fude handle. Fude handles are made of materials such as bamboo and cherry trees. The inside of a handle is smoothed away evenly so that a Fude head will be easily inserted into it. 


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11: Finishing

To ensure that the Fude lasts for a long time, glue is applied to the Fude. The glue is applied to the end of the Fude head with a pounding motion so that it will absorb the glue well. Any excess glue is removed by using a thread. A linen thread is wrapped around the Fude head and by turning the handle of the Fude, the excess glue gets squeezed out of the hair.

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12 Engraving

After the Fude is naturally dried thoroughly, the signature of the each workshop is engraved on the Fude, and now the Fude is complete.

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We have these calligraphy brushes available at our store.

Thierry Lamoine