Kumano-fude (熊野筆)

The Kumano-fude is a writing brush produced in Kumano-cho, Aki County, Hiroshima Prefecture. The name 'Kumano-fude' is registered as a regional organization trademark in 2006, and therefore its use without permission from the Kumano-fude Cooperative is prohibited.

The Kumano-fude is broadly divided into four categories, which are generally-used writing brushes for calligraphy, painting brushes for painting, cosmetic brushes for makeup, and birthday brushes as mementos. The fur as material is imported from China and Canada, and the stem is made of bamboo from various areas in Japan and imports from China and Taiwan. The number of the Kumano-fude craftspeople is currently said to be 1,500-plus, including 19 traditional craftsmen certified by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry as of April, 2008. Recently, the Kumano cosmetic brushes gather attention from abroad and are highly valued.

The origin of the Kumano-fude is said to be that, at the end of the Edo period, farmers who worked as seasonal migrant workers in Yamato Province during the agricultural off-season purchased writing brushes and ink in Nara Prefecture on the way back home and then peddled them, as well as produced them on their own to sell, and later its manufacturing developed with the help of incentives for industry from Hiroshima Domain. Production of the Kumano-fude increased as education became widely available after the Meiji era began. Its market share grew to the top, with as much as 80% of the total domestic production. Painting brushes and cosmetic brushes started to be produced after WWII and were certified as a Traditional Craft in 1975. On the other hand, recently, there are several issues on the Kumano-fude, such as imported writing brushes from China or other countries and a limited number of successors.

[Original Japanese]