Monday, January 20, 2014

Brushing up on our knowledge of Japanese brushes...

In consolation for my spouse being deployed for a month through Thanksgiving and most of December this year, he took a day off of work to accommodate my wish for him to go on a cultural trip with me... this time to the brush-making city of Kumano, just on the outskirts of Hiroshima. This was yet another of the Cultural Adaptation tours sponsored by MCAS Iwakuni and led by our fearless tour guide Akie.

According to Kumano's mayor, the brush museum curator and another dignitary who acted as our host throughout the day, Kumano is home to about 25,000 people, 2,500 of them are employed by the brush-making industry. Kumano's calligraphy and makeup brushes are hand-made, and supply about 80 percent of Japan's calligraphy and makeup brushes.This is a huge source of pride for the town, and there is a museum, art center and even a mascot, Fuderin, picture above with Rodney and me. Fuderin is not a mushroom, or a Hershey's white chocolate kiss on a stick... he is what I would describe to be a anime brush. Fude (foo-day, not food or feud) means brush in Japanese.

Now, mind you, the day's activities cost us 1,000 yen each, or about $10 each. The first stop was to the art center, where we practiced our calligraphy and painting with two different types of calligraphy brushes... which we got to take home as a keepsake. Kumano's mayor welcomed us to the town and there was a town resident at each of our tables to show us techniques and make us feel welcome.

Kumano's mayor (man in suit) and Akie (right) our tour guide.
23 residents of MCAS Iwakuni participated on the trip.

My attempt to outline the berries in front of me with a calligraphy brush. An artist I am not.

Rodney worked on a postcard with tulips on the front. He later recovered from the girly-ness by drawing a baseball for our sons.
We created posters and post cards. The city provided the postage so we could actually mail our postcards to the United States. A couple of close family members will be receiving these in the mail:

Next on the agenda was lunch, which was at a restaurant named Midoriya, within a 5-minute walk of the art center. They had the entire meal out and read for all of us and it was delicious!

The meal was one that is traditional for the New Year, and included oysters, which I am not a fan of, so Rodney enjoyed mine... and two other ladies', who didn't care for oysters, either. In total, Rodney ate eight oysters and raved about each one. He was as happy as a... clam.

After lunch was our trip to the KumanoFude Museum, where we saw all different sizes, shapes and uses for handmade brushes, as well as how brushes are made. Well, we saw 12 of the 73 steps required to make a handmade Kumano brush. But first, we took a brief tour around the museum. The brush below is the largest in the world, weighing about 400 kilograms, or 882 pounds.

There was artwork created with brushes...

And some examples of what Kumano brushes are used for...

Our brush-making demonstration took about 20 minutes, and Mr. Kano has been a brush maker for more than 50 years. For the brushes he made for us, he used Chinese goat hair.

Ash is used to reduce the amount of oil in the hair, so it stacks together nicely.

A wooden board is used to stack the hair. Then the hair is brushed to remove odd-sized hairs or hairs turned the wrong way. This is done several times. The hair is then trimmed to the length desired with scissors.

An adhesive made from seaweed is used to make the bristles stiff and keep the individual hairs together as one solid brush shape. Once the brush is placed in water by the new owner, the adhesive deactivates.
It appeared that Mr. Kano enjoyed his job, and did not seem to mind answering our questions through Akie's interpreting.

Across from the brush-making demonstration was an artist demonstrating how some Kumano brushes are used... creating beautiful art.

Like any good museum, there was a brush gift store near the exit.

I would have purchased one of Mr. Kano's brushes, but he specializes in calligraphy brushes only.

Since I don't plan to take up calligraphy, and we just got some brushes as keepsakes, I opted to buy an eye shadow brush. I wasn't the only cultural tourist makeup brush shopping, and there were plenty to choose from, all of them with natural hair, no synthetics.

Kumano also gave the group some gifts, and there was a raffle on the bus ride home as to who would win different items. The grand prize was a small Year of the Horse display, which Rodney, who was born during the Year of the Horse, won. Will was also born the Year of the Horse, so the fact that it came with a large and small horse was very appropriate for our family, We have it displayed in our living room. Hopefully both Will and Rodney will have a great year!

1 comment:

Semper Fi Wife n Mommy said...

How cool was that!