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Meet the Maker: Houkodou

Houkodou celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2020, making the company one of the oldest Fude producers in Japan. Located in Kumano, Japan’s premier region for Fude brushes, Houkodou is also one of the country’s most respected Fude makers.

Although the company was established originally to create calligraphy brushes, due to the decline of calligraphy culture in Japan over the last 30 years, Houkodou expanded to include the production of cosmetic brushes. Attention to detail and quality control is at the heart of all their brushes, with no compromise for perfection. 

Image courtesy of Houkodou

While jobs at many brush workshops are specialized to one person, at Houkodou, artisans work across tasks to understand the complex process end-to-end, as well as to improve each step. Every brush is made by hand throughout the process using traditional Kumano techniques, such as hand-sorting bristles, and leaving bristle tips uncut for a soft finish and good product pickup.

 

Other foundations for Houkodou include the continued pursuit of improving technique, as well as a focus on female employee empowerment – many of the staff members are women. The current company head is a woman, the current one being Tomoko Ihara, the great-granddaughter of Azuma Ihara, the founder. 

Due to the coronavirus disaster in 2020, many exhibitions and training sessions in the calligraphy world were canceled, as were makeup brush events at department stores. Although this resulted in a drastic change in sales, it allowed Houkoudou an opportunity to go back to their roots, and focus on what is important: to produce the brushes that their customers want – something that has not changed since their early days.

Image courtesy of Houkodou

Houkodou’s vision for the future is to play a role in conveying the Japanese brush culture to the field of education. Further to this, to be involved in the succession of Japanese brush craftsmanship, not only within Kumano companies, but also with other brush artisans throughout Japan.

 

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