How 200 Years of Kumano Fude Brushmaking Created the Latest Cosmetic Trends

Mizuho makeup brushes are some of the finest of their kind. Head to Hiroshima's Kumano Town to find out what makes the company’s techniques so special.
How 200 Years of Kumano Fude Brushmaking Created the Latest Cosmetic Trends

Japan is home to artisans from every walk of life, with generations of specialized makers and producers learning alluring trades from their ancestors and passing them down through family lines. With these artisans often spending their entire lives dedicated to their craft, this phenomenon happens across Japanese ceramics, textiles, cooking, and more.

Another traditional skill native to the southern town of Kumano is the art of fude brush making. With countless people traveling from overseas to purchase authentic fude brushes, these sought-after products are now common in high-end makeup and calligraphy. Handcrafted with incredible precision, creatives who need to produce meticulously smooth and attractive strokes prefer these brushes.

Located in the western part of Hiroshima prefecture, Kumano town is nicknamed the “Land of Brushes” because it’s the largest brush-producing area of Japan. Today, artisans who have inherited traditional techniques handed down since the Edo period create many of the brushes made in Japan. 

With these bespoke items desired by the world’s leading makeup artists and calligraphers, below, we cover everything you need to know before your next trip to Japan.

The quiet beauty of Kumano

The quiet beauty of Kumano

Situated around 15 kilometers from Hiroshima city, Kumano is immersed in natural beauty. Surrounded by lush mountains, a population of around 24,000 people has access to sprawling parklands and peaks located virtually on their doorsteps. However, as around 10 percent of Kumano's residents work in the brushmaking industry, much of the community revolves around this glorious tradition.

If you’re looking to learn more about Kumano brushes and get up-close with the best examples, the Fudenosato Kobo museum is the ideal place. Set inside a sleek gallery on the edge of a striking lake, fascinating exhibitions explore the enduring practices that underpin this unique Japanese craft. Plus, workshops and in-house experiences teach beginners how to make and use their own brush.

Alongside a terrace cafe where you can soak up the tranquil views, there’s also the Kumanofude Select gift shop, where you can buy all kinds of high-quality Kumano brushes, including hair, paintbrushes, makeup brushes, and more. Considering how Japanese people often gift these brushes to friends and family on special occasions, selecting an item to present to a loved one provides a fitting end to your journey.

The quiet beauty of Kumano

How the Kumano brush was born

How the Kumano brush was born

In a scenic basin just outside Hiroshima city at an elevation of 250 meters, brushmaking emerged in the region about 200 years ago during the Edo period. With this highland known for its mountainous landscape, Kumano’s farmers would instead travel to regions like Nara and Kishu in search of jobs during the off-season for farmers.

Returning from these work trips, farmers would pass through towns that had already adopted brushmaking, with some choosing to purchase brushes and ink to sell for profit at home. Over time, many workers from Kumano studied the skill themselves, recognizing that brushmaking was the ideal side job outside the agricultural season.

Although this industry was already growing, when education became compulsory in Japan in 1886, demand for calligraphy brushes escalated dramatically. As these artisans refined their processes and developed techniques that produced even higher quality brushes, Kumano’s reputation for brushmaking extended across Japan and eventually the world. 

While the demand for calligraphy brushes has shrunk due to the proliferation of modern writing tools, Kumano makeup brushes – made with incredibly fine tips – have maintained their immense popularity in line with the global cosmetics industry.

New trends from Kumano Town’s top brush brand

New trends from Kumano Town’s top brush brand
New trends from Kumano Town’s top brush brand

Founded in Kumano Town, Mizuho Brushes has been manufacturing watercolor brushes and cosmetic brushes since 1980, when Taiji Shakuda founded the company. Today, the company is recognized as Kumano's leading brand specializing in cosmetic brushes. 

The highly skilled team at Mizuho Brush ranges from industry veterans to beginners, with 30 brush artisans aged 20 to 80 years old. Alongside an experienced development team, Mizuho Brush is a respected brush manufacturer that creates new trends across makeup, watercolor, plastic models, and body care brushes. 

Drawing parallels to Japan’s historical connection with rice, the company name "Mizuho" was selected because it translates to “fresh ears of rice”. Just as pristine rice ears help produce stunning crops, the tip of a cosmetic brush must be manufactured to the highest standards to achieve its purpose. To realize the new purpose demanded by customers and the times, it is important to identify natural materials. 

With this company policy, Mizuho continues to use traditional handmade techniques and experiences that develop and deliver the best quality product possible. The brushes are made from raw materials refined on-site at its Kumano headquarters, while Mizuho customizes its products for many technical purposes. Across makeup, body care, and endless creative pursuits, a selection of Mizuho brushes produces incredible results.

Enhancing Japanese beauty with Fude (Brush)

Enhancing Japanese beauty with Fude (Brush)

Launched in 2015, Mizuho’s SHAQUDA brand combines Kumano’s immense traditional skills and developmental experience to produce a superior product. The OWN series – released in 2021 – is a hugely popular SHAQUDA product line that uses original artificial hair and natural hair to elevate makeup application.

Artisans handcraft each brush bristle to create a smooth and striking natural look. With a handle that fits comfortably in your hand, less shaking during makeup application means you experience a stunning aesthetic. Plus, the handle has been designed to stop the brush from tipping over, ensuring it has an elegant appeal when positioned on your makeup cabinet.

Across makeup brushes for foundation, highlighter, powder, eyeliner, and more, buyers will appreciate that the OWN series doesn’t rely on artificial products. Instead, it uses genuine horse and goat hair to offer the incredible characteristics of natural hair.

For example, the OWN Multi Face Brush is available in premium goat hair or in two patterns of SHAQUDA's original artificial hair, with both ‌options feeling remarkably soft on the skin. Featuring a candle-shaped tip, users will love the fast and effortless application along the face’s natural curves and details like the sides of the nose. The OWN Eyebrow Brush Sharp/Soft is another popular choice that combines SHAQUDA's original artificial and horsehair bristles to create a lightweight, three-dimensional finish.

SHAQUDA also produces brushes for customers with other preferences. The serene design behind the SUVÉ brush range is ideal for anyone looking to create a salon or hotel experience at home. Featuring a form and function that evokes restful tranquility, these brushes are not only stunning to use but also beautiful to look at. Add SUVÉ brushes to your home and ensure your pampering time becomes even better.

Elsewhere in SHAQUDA’s range, the UBU series respects and elevates the origins of Japanese brushmaking. With no metal fittings included in the design, this walnut wood brush fits elegantly in your hand while the refined brush tip strokes your face with exceptional care. Inspired by traditional brushes, the graceful tip and environmentally friendly manufacturing process provide the best possible experience.

SHAQUDA's clear dedication to craftsmanship, design, and innovation has helped the brand attract attention from around the globe, including renowned fashion magazines like Vogue. In 2016, the UBU collection won a prestigious Red Dot Award for Product Design. With 17 high-quality brushes in the range, these brushes ensure makeup has never felt so good. According to the Red Dot Design jury: “With silken brushes and oiled walnut handles, SHAQUDA UBU makes the makeup ritual a sensuous experience.”

The team behind Mizuho Brush

The team behind Mizuho Brush

The success of Mizuho Brush over the last 50 years is attributed to its industry-leading experts, who inherited Kumano's traditional techniques and forged new styles. At the helm is co-founder and chairman Mr. Taiji Shakuda, who has been heavily involved with brushmaking since calligraphy was the industry’s major revenue source. In the 1970s, as international consumers became increasingly interested in cosmetics, he founded Mizuho Co., a highly respected brand that has strengthened the Kumano brush industry ever since.

Leading the production of the company’s brushes is Taiji’s wife Shizuko Shakuda, who started the company alongside Taiji. With decades of experience in the industry, Shizuko has instilled in Mizuho's brush craftsmen the high standards necessary to produce excellent cosmetic brushes. In addition, she plays an important role in teaching the next generation of brush makers how to preserve this great Kumano tradition.

Now, the next generation will inherit the Shakuda family business. The eldest daughter's husband, Osahiro Maruyama, the representative of Mizuho, Sawako Maruyama, and the second daughter, Yuko McNeil, are tasked with carrying on this traditional industry. From this mountainous area of Hiroshima, Mizuho's team is developing new products that heighten the lifestyle and experience for those who love Kumano brushes around the globe.

Book your trip to Kumano with JAL today

Immerse yourself in Kumano's favorite pastime with a trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Departing from Tokyo Haneda Airport, it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Hiroshima Airport. Then, catch the Airport Limousine Bus to Hiroshima Station, where you can ride the JR Kure train to Yano Station before taking a local bus bound for Kumano-Hagiwara. 

However, if you don’t have time to travel to Hiroshima during your stay in Japan, you can also find Kumano brushes in Tokyo’s famous Ginza shopping district. In fact, there’s also a Kumanofude Select Shop on the second level of Hiroshima Brand Shop TAU. With around 1,500 Kumano brushes for sale, there’s nowhere better to find the perfect brush.

If you’re ready to take off, our JAL Japan Explorer Pass offers special airfares for over 30 cities across our domestic network. With a visit to Kumano and the surrounding Hiroshima prefecture featuring untouched landscapes and ancient culture, enjoying this satisfying part of the world comes naturally. Book your next adventure with JAL today.

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