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.
Toward the end of the Edo period, brushes were being made in a workshop set up by the Asano family, head of the Hiroshima clan. The techniques of brush making became a firmly established craft among the people and the handing down of these skills within the village marked the beginnings of Kumano Fude as they are known today.
Many kinds of brushes for use in schools, for calligraphy, painting and even for makeup are being made by craftsmen today.
A wide variety of brushes is produced for everyone wishing to practice calligraphy, from school children and general users to calligraphy experts, as well as special brushes made to individual specifications.
How to make
The hairs are first selected and then combined together. The hair is rubbed with ash to remove any oil, cut to the required length, mixed and bundled into a core. The hair is wrapped around the outside of the core like a garment and tied at the base, thus completing the neck. The neck is then glued on to the shaft, and the brush is completed by engraving an inscription. For the neck, hairs of goats, horses, deers, raccoons, weasels and cats are used. The very important hair selection stage is the base of the brush-making process and no good brushes are possible if the wrong choices are made.