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Edo Fude
(Handmade Calligraphy Brushes)

32 Edo Fude (Handmade Calligraphy Brushes)
Main Areas of Manufacture
Taito Ward, Toshima Ward, Nerima Ward
Designation/Certification Dates
August 9th, 1990 (Tokyo Certification)
Traditional Technologies and Techniques
  1. Hair for calligraphy brushes is chosen based on the intended brush type and the length of the brush tip. The craftsman relies on instincts developed over many years of brush making.
  2. Removing defective strands of hair is part of the tip-formation process. The tip represents the most important part of a calligraphy brush. A metal comb is used to comb through the strands of hair and align them accordingly, and strands without proper tips as well as those that are incorrectly oriented are removed from the clump.
  3. The tip is formed by arranging strands into clumps for the very end of the tip (inochige), the middle portion of the tip (nodoge) and the base portion of the tip (koshige). One brush's worth of hairs is then taken from each of these clumps to make a tip. Advanced skills are required to both ensure balanced spacing between the hairs and to also achieve an elegant brush-tip shape.
  4. Nerimaze is a process carried out to achieve an evenly distributed mix of differing strand lengths, and it makes a major contribution to determining the final quality of the brush tip.
  5. Shintate is the formation of the final brush-tip shape using a ring-shaped implement. The craftsman feels the tip by hand to check its firmness and resilience, etc. The volume of hair used in the brush tip may be adjusted accordingly in response to how the tip feels.
Traditionally Used Raw Materials
Brush Tip - goat hair, horse hair, pig hair, raccoon dog hair, weasel hair, cat hair, and other varieties.
Brush Handle - Bamboo, wood
History and Characteristics

Concerning the "calligraphy brush," one of the "Four Treasures of Study" within the Chinese classical canon, in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan) it is recorded that in March of the 18th year of the reign of the Empress Suiko (610); "the methods of making paper and ink were brought about" by the Buddhist priest Damjing. This reference indicates that Damjing was a pioneer figure with respect to the arrival in Japan of writing implements in the form of calligraphy brushes, ink and ink stones.

Since then, there have been numerous advances and improvements made in production technologies as calligraphy brushes (and the written word that accompanied them) became key implements in Japan's cultural and traditional development, with many different types of brush produced for different purposes.

Around the middle of the Edo Period, along with the rise to prominence of the commercial class, Edo witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of "temple schools". In that the general population also began to write, calligraphy brushes came to be widely used among the masses. Furthermore, a number of classic Edo Fude (handmade calligraphy brushes) were born around this time as production technologies employed by craftsmen developed even further. The dominant production method in Edo was called nerimazeho (literally "the mixing method"), and its processes were established by Hosoi Kotaku (1658-1736) in the Genroku Era (1688-1704). This method of manufacture went on to spread quickly due to the new national education system that was promulgated in the fifth year of the Meiji Era (1872).

Due to the combined calamities of the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and the Pacific War (1941-1945) many calligraphy brush craftsmen left Tokyo. However, those who were left focused both on the production of high-end calligraphy brushes, and on working to keep the relevant technologies and techniques alive.

Goat hair, horse hair, pig hair, raccoon dog hair, weasel hair and cat hair are but some of the materials used to make the tips of calligraphy brushes. In many cases the hair of goats native to China is used, with the hair grown below the nape of the neck in the vicinity of the upper forequarters being considered the best quality and thus highly prized. When making a calligraphy brush, in forming the tip which is said to represent the most important part, a metal comb is used to comb through the hair strands and align them accordingly, with strands without proper tips as well as those that are incorrectly oriented being removed. Shaping is the process of forming the brush tip, and advanced skills are required to ensure balanced spacing between the hairs and to also achieve an elegant shape. Nerimaze is the process of taking strands of different lengths and mixing them evenly. This process plays a major role in determining the final quality of the brush tip. Shintate is formation of the final shape of the tip using a ring-shaped implement. The craftsman feels the tip by hand to check its firmness and resilience, etc. The volume of hair used in the brush tip may be adjusted accordingly in response to how the tip feels.

Contact Details
Manufacturing Area
Cooperative Name
Tokyo Stationery Industrial Association
Address1-3-14 Asakusabashi, Taito Ward, Tokyo 111-0053
Telephone No.03 (3864) 4391
Homepagehttp://www.bungu.or.jp/
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