The town of Kumano, Aki-gun, Hiroshima is located at small field basin surrounded by mountains with their heights around 500 meters over sea level.
Kumano is the capital of brushes. Among its population of over 25,000, about 2,500 people are involved in the business of brushes.
Kumano's share of domestic brush production has increased to 80% not only in Japan's calligraphy but also in brush for painting and for makeup.
In recent years, their high quality brushes are a hot trend among celeb makeup artists, and have been well received in the global market.
However, none of the materials used to make the brush come from Kumano. Materials for brush are mostly handles either from Okayama and Shimane prefecture in Japan, or are imported from other countries.
Then how did the production of brush come to flourish in the town of Kumano while it's raw material is not available in this area?
Around the end of 18th century (late Edo period), people of Kumano were having a hard time to live just by farming, because of the fact that there wasn't much flat land for agriculture.
They started purchasing "Fude" (brush in Japanese) and "sumi ink" (Japanese pure black 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 started to learn Fude-making skill. And later, with their efforts and enthusiasm Fude making skill 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 year 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.
This tradition of Fude making of Kumano is still being passed down from one generation to the next.
"Fude-shi" is a craftsman who makes a Fude head, which is a most important part of a Fude. The most important process in Fude making is a process of selecting the right hair and mixing it in a way that best suit for the each type of Fude. Kumano-Fude are made one by one with a great care by the skilled hands and trained eyes of experienced craftsmen "Fude-shi".
There are now about 1,500 Fude-shi in Kumano. And 22 of them are highly skilled craftsmen who have at least 12 years of experience in Fude making, passed an official test and were designated as masters in traditional Fude making by the traditional crafts industry law.
The "Fude Festival" is held every September in town of Kumano, the top brush-making in Japan.
The town celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2014. This great festival contributes to spreading knowledge of Fude culture to other areas.
Many calligraphy enthusiasts and tourists now visit from all across Japan.