The origins of the Ogatsu Suzuri can be traced back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573). Then, at the beginning of the 17th century, two inkstones were presented to the military commander, Date Masamune, who was on a deer hunt on Toojima, an island off the Ojika Peninsular. It seems that he was highly delighted with the stones and reciprocated generously.
Toyohashi is situated at the center of the area which was once ruled by the Yoshida clan. Toward the end of the 18th century, the leader of the clan brought in Suzuki Jinzaemon from Kyoto, and he began making brushes for the clan. Gradually lower ranking samurai started this work and this marked the true beginnings of the craft in Toyohashi.
Suzuka Sumi Ink Sticks
The making of ink sticks here is said to have begun at the end of the 8th century, when soot was obtained by burning pine that was cut from the mountains around Suzuka. An animal glue was then added to the soot which was dried and used to make ink.
Coming first from China, the abacus was brought to Otsu from Nagasaki toward the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It was during the following Momoyama period (1573-1600), when Toyotomi Hideyoshi sieged Miki castle, that the people of this small castle town fled to nearby Otsu, where some learned how to make the abacus. When they finally returned to their homeland, they began making what became the Banshu Soroban.
When the monk Kukai journeyed to China some 1,200 years ago, he made a study of brush making there and on his return, he passed on his knowledge to people living in the province of Yamatokoku that is now called Nara Prefecture. This marked the beginnings of brush making here.
Towards the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), a carpenter living in Shimane Prefecture obtained an abacus from Hiroshima made by a specialist and made a very good one using locally sourced oak, Japanese apricot and a smoked form of bamboo called susudake.
During the Edo period (1600-1868), many farmers found life very difficult. When there was no farm work, peasants went off in search of work to the Kumano district in Kishu corresponding to present-day Wakayama and the Yoshino area of Yamato, which is now Nara Prefecture. On returning to their homelands they sold writing brushes and ink they had acquired from these places. Ultimately, this led to the making of brushes in Kumano.
It seems that the link between Kure and writing brushes dates back to when some brushes were acquired from a region of what is now Hyogo Prefecture by one Kikutani Sanzo at the beginning of the 19th century. The brushes were brought for use at the temples in the area and, as a result of this business, the advantages of actually making brushes during the slack time of the agricultural calendar were explained to the local farmers.
Records exist showing that an Akama Suzuri was offered at the Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura at the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185-1333). By the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868) these inkstones were being sold up and down the country.