History of Kumano Fude

Then how did the Fude making come to flourish in the town of Kumano while it does not produce any raw materials for them?

The town of Kumano is located at small field basin surrounded by mountains with their heights around 500 meters above sea level. The town is long and narrow stretching from north to south, and surrounded by three cities called Hiroshima, Kure, and Higashi-hiroshima.

Among its population of over 24,500, 2,500 people are craftsmen called "Fude-shi" engaged in Fude manufacturing. Also, Kumano has sixteen highly skilled craftsmen who passed an official test and were designated as masters in traditional Fude making by the traditional crafts industry law. (This law was made to promote the traditional Japanese crafts.) For the materials used for Fude, animal hair of goats, horses, weasels, deers and raccoons are mainly used, and they are mostly imported from China and North America. The materials for Fude handles are purchased from Okayama and Shimane prefectures as well as Taiwan and South Korea. Then how did the Fude making come to flourish in the town of Kumano while it does not produce any raw materials for them?

Around the end of 18th century (late Edo period), people of Kumano were having a hard time making a living just from farming, partly because of the fact that there wasn't much flat land for agriculture. They started purchasing Fude and sumi 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 set out to learn Fude-making skills.

●The pioneers of Fude making in Kumano were young villagers. They learned the skills from Fude craftsmen who were invited to Kumano to teach, and also some of them were sent to Nara prefecture or Arima of Hyogo prefecture where advanced Fude-making skills were available.

●And later, with villagers' efforts and enthusiasm Fude making skills was firmly established in Kumano. When school system was set up in 1872 (Meiji 5) and four years of education became mandatory in 1900 (Meiji 33), 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 (Showa 30), they started a production of Fude for painting and Fude for makeup, and in 1975 (Showa 50), 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. Today, Kumano's share of domestic Fude production has increased to 80 % not only in calligraphy Fude but also in Fude for painting and Fude for makeup. This tradition of Fude making of Kumano is still being passed down from one generation to the next.