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.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Haga Jirokichi promoted the making of a coreless brush called a suihitsu and the same brushes are still being made today. Jirokichi was also instrumental in giving the craft a firm base in the area, and established a scheme for the training of apprentices.
Being a style of writing brush in general use, the market for Toyohashi Fude has been greatly affected by the importing of cheaper brushes from China. A great deal of effort is therefore being made to produce top quality brushes to appeal to the Japanese user, in order to survive in a very competitive market. Various types of brushes for calligraphy and painting are still being made with unfailing diligence, following traditional methods and techniques.
Calligraphy brushes are the main variety of Toyohashi Fude brushes. In recent years, cheaply-priced brushes from China have entered the market, dealing a huge blow to local producers. However, makers of Toyohashi Fude put their all into making high-quality products for Japanese consumers and in this way they are able to stand up to the Chinese brushes.
How to make
There are 36 steps to making a brush. The major steps include sorting the hairs that will become the brush tip, cleaning the hairs by a massaging technique called kemomi, and then the hairs are put in order using a technique called nerimaze. The hairs are arranged and the core is made, which is wrapped an outside layer of hairs called uwage, then attached to a shaft, which is then engraved and then the brush is complete. A unique characteristic of Toyohashi Fude is the nerimaze step where water is used to arrange the hairs. These high quality handmade items are a result of traditional techniques and methods that have been handed down over a long history.