A sweet brush fairy tale in Japan – Chapter 1: Hakuhodo
There are no words to describe how I felt before, during and after my encounter with Hakuhodo’s team. I have to call it a fairy tale, the sensations are way too intense to feel like a real moment in my life. I know some of you can understand my emotion because you know me, you know the depth of my passion, my love for brushes and my admiration for the craftsmen hidden behind them.
This is how my Hakuhodo fairy tale started…
I sent an email to the Hakuhodo USA branch asking them if it was possible to visit their Japan manufacture. I immediately got an exciting reply from Stephanie ensuring me that they would help me to schedule a tour.
Already after that first email I was totally crazy nervous imagining the tour, the meeting with them, watching them at work was a dream but I did not know it would be even more magical than in any dream I had !
Stephanie went beyond expectations, she sent me loads of emails with amazing recommendations about Japan and she coordinated my visit. She also told me that since I was considered by them as a “VIP” -another reason to feel even more nervous – they would directly pick me up at my hotel in Hiroshima.
My tour was scheduled for the morning of the 29th of May, I had to wait in the lobby and as planned Mr Nakata, a staff from Hakuhodo, arrived at 9am and drove me to their manufacture. During the car trip I was looking around, asking him a lot of questions since he spoke english, I hope I did not bother him too much but I was so happy to be able to talk to someone ! I was also trying to keep talking because I was so nervous that I thought I would bug and go forever silent at any moment.
It took us around 40 minutes to arrive, it’s in the middle of nowhere and not close to the other manufactures in Kumano, if you don’t get a taxi or have someone drop you there it’s going to be very difficult to locate them. When we got there we took our shoes off and we entered the reception where their shop is also located. There are approx 10 people working there I believe. All the employees greeted to me with such a huge warm smile ! It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with each and everyone of them.
Unfortunately I don’t know the names of all of them, maybe you have spoken to Miki by email (she is holding the Hakuhodo poster in front of me), close to me is the General Manager, Mr Ko Takamoto.
On the next pic, on my right is Yuko, on my left Mr Takamoto. Yuko was my contact before my visit, she organized that I could visit when Mr Takamoto was present to show me around and spend some time with me.
Yuko introduced me to Mr Takamoto “Japanese style” in his office , you know how it is : holding the business card with two hands, reading the card with respect. I was going to bow but he showed me his hand so we shook hands instead. Unlike Obama I did not bow at the same time I just looked down with respect… You are not supposed to both bow and shake hands, it’s either one or the other. I wanted to say a few words in Japanese but my brain froze I couldn’t remember anything at all, it was worst than any exam I took, a very embarrassing moment ! When you visit a company in Japan you are supposed to bring a present with you, I offered them Swiss Chocolates and they told me later that they enjoyed them very much
After tea we left the office for the tour, Mr Takamoto was explaining everything and Yuko was translating in English. I did not know if I could take pictures because of the professional secret and the respect towards the workers, at some point I politely asked and they said “of course you can take pictures !” I tried not to fire my camera every time he showed me something because I did not want to bother them too much but I still have a few pics to share with you.
The first thing that surprised me is to see that it was a family business, with 500’000 brushes produced in average in a month but still, a family business where the family works too.
In the next picture, Mr Takamoto on the left, then his mum (Mr Kazuo Takamoto’s wife). Mr Kazuo Takamoto founded Hakuhodo in 1974. Then his sister is the 3rd person from the left. You can clearly see the resemblance ! Her mum is working at the end of the manufacture production, checking the products before their distribution.
They all were so sweet to me, so infinitely kind and welcoming that it didn’t feel like a work place, they immediately felt like family to me. I felt so close to them that I had to control myself at all times and I just didn’t succeed very well- meeting them was deeply emotional. They looked at me as if I was someone really special to them and that was the most touching moment, overwhelming.
This is just part of a thank you email I received from Yuko after my visit :
Thank you for visiting our office yesterday. It was a pleasure meeting with you.I was impressed and honored by your kind respect towards fude manufacturers and deep understanding of Japanese traditions and its value. We all appreciated to meet someone like you. Thank you for taking your valuable time to visit us.
- The first is because at this moment my fav shape of brush is flat-round, this one is to compare with the red Shu Uemura or with other similar squirrel options. I want to check out the result with different materials but same shape.
- The two big crease eyeshadow brushes will be for highlight and contour, I am always complaining that some contour brushes are too dense, too directional and can deliver a muddy application, these are to test with that idea in mind.
- The 4th (Kokutan) is simply because the shape and softness of the head is extraordinary.
- The 5th and 6th is because I wanted backups for these 2 HG brushes so I got a different handle ones. I use them almost every day, I keep two like these at work now.
- The pink and blue are just for travelling and comparison with similar options, I was looking for a black Mac 239 option and for another eyeliner brush.
- The foundation (9th from the left) is because I am in a big foundation brush kick since 2 or 3 months, I am now trying to get different ones in order to publish a post about “brush decision-making”, it started as a little post but I get so many questions by email that I decided I would do a bigger post that would probably answer many of those questions.
- The S series crease kolinsky brush is just amazing, I am so happy I got it because it’s not available in their USA website.
- The last two stippling from the S series are BEAUTIFUL to look at, since these are amongst my favorite brushes ever I could not leave without them ! They are now available on their USA website too. I love them, I wish they expand these series even further !