I don’t remember who told me about this brand in the first place or how I ended on their website, but I do remember that since the site was only in Japanese and they did not deliver internationally I just looked away and skipped them with regret. A few months later when I was finally able to purchase “in Japanese” (thank you Google Chrome…) and use a Japanese forwarding company (thank you Tenso), I decided it was time to try them.
When you order from companies that are not that well known internationally or when you cannot find any reviews about the products, there is a risk you may lose patience, time and money in the process. Sometimes it’s worth trying, we find hidden treasures like Tanseido and that gives sense to even the most difficult brush hunt adventure.
My first post about Tanseido is Tanseido brushes – First order and first impressions, later on, I published Tanseido strikes again – YSS 17, YWC 14, YSC 17, and a bit later a different one where these brushes were featured too: Seven obsessions, one weakness and one disappointment. Tanseido apparently noticed an increase in sales and they actually wrote to me just to say thank you.
Following to my planned visit to Kumano we got in contact again, they told me that their “Chief” (I don’t know if they are talking about the Director or the President or somebody else) was worried I would be disappointed. They told me their production site was very small, that they only assembled the brushes as they were receiving the orders. They were afraid I was expecting something bigger behind their brand.
I told them not to worry about that and that I would love to spend some time with them. My contacts were Jun and Natsuko, they are from an external company and they manage the Tanseido online shop, they know Tanseido very well and these two charming persons are most probably the ones who answer your emails when you write to their Tanseido contact address.
Jun and Natsuko wanted to pick me up at the hotel but since I was with Hakuhodo in the morning and therefore already in Kumano, I suggested them to pick me up at the museum at 1pm. We had also planned to have dinner together and was extremely excited about that ! It was difficult for me to get around in Hiroshima so I was happy they offered to stay with me for longer after the visit and actually I was also very interested to get to know them better, also their culture and habits.
First we started with the introductions and the business card / chocolates exchange protocol then the visit of the manufacture, then tea. As I had been warned by Tanseido, indeed my surprise was huge, I was very surprised but not disappointed at all. It was tiny, basically a house where the rooms are used each one for its purpose. There is one for sanitizing the hair, one where they use the engraving machine, one where the artisans work (sitting on a little cute cushions), etc… but it was so far away from anything I had imagined ! This time I was emotional because without knowing what or who was behind the brand, my blog and your purchases had some financial impact on their production, little but still, unbelievable how today a little blog can help, or not. It’s not only financially, but knowing that there are passionate customers far far away made them so happy and very proud!
I am honest in my reviews, in the past I gave good and bad reviews depending on the products. Tanseido always got great reviews from me because simply the products I own from them are flawless. When I was there they asked me many questions, they wanted my opinion on many of their brushes and whatever my opinion was, it was always honest and polite (I did say what I liked and what I didn’t). It felt like my humble opinion was really taken into consideration and that they were very interested to improve even further.
They did not know there was any interest for their products outside of Japan, therefore their site in only in Japanese. They may consider international delivery in the future too, let’s wait and see I had to explain how it was working with the taxes when we receive a parcel, what kind of brushes were the most popular outside of Japan, etc.
Tanseido have a special step in their production, they UV sanitize the hair of their brushes, the brush head enters one side of this machine, stays for 3 minutes and gets out at the other side.
One flufffy bed just about to the sanitized. The UV process happens before the assembly and also before the final comb (where they remove the non-attached hair). They have several colors for the handles (red, blue, black), the brushes are assembled and finished once the order has been received.
The artisans are sitting on cushions on the floor, I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the other manufactures or maybe I didn’t notice it… They were very busy and very concentrated but they were really friendly and welcoming. It felt weird to be there at the heart of the production, specially since it was so small and traditional.
Below is the main room where the artisans are sitting, I remember my friend Estrella telling me that she made an order with Tanseido just because she was touched by this picture and she loved the cushions :) Estrella saw these pics before you because I met her while I was in Japan, she was very surprised to see how traditional it was and I think she really loved that. Specially when there is such a big and modern internet website, you think there is something bigger and more industrial behind, but it’s just simple and traditional.
Jun wanted them to show me how they made the Danseido IGC-01 but there wasn’t enough hair for a brush so they couldn’t
They have little quantities of hair, they make the brushes when they can, depending on hair availability. That’s also why often companies don’t have control on how many they will be able to create for a specific deadline.
The Danseido brush is meant for men to use with shampoo on their scalp, or wherever they want just kidding
They offered me a brush as a present, assembled it in front of me and they engraved something on it in order for me to see how it was done
On the right (not very visible), there is a computer where they write the text, then they put the brush in the machine and print.
The process is not finished there, she still has to cover the engraving with white paint (I think she has to apply two coats), wait till it’s dry and then the finish is perfect. I was impressed !
Natsuko, Mayuko, then there is me, and Mrs Keiko Yamada (Keiko is the Director and President’s wife). Mayuko is Keiko’s daughter and she is the Product Manager.
The second girl does the engraving, the assembling of your orders, the packing, etc… she is full of energy and adorable !
The tour took quite a while, then we went to Mrs Yamada’s house to have tea and talk brushes. Jun was translating for me
I know some of you have already seen these brushes below…. the Cleopatra brushes are extremely expensive, there are only these shown here (I believe!) and unless you are extremely rich, there is no point in asking the price… they are made with gold, silver and some also with expensive stones. The two crystal brushes at the back are for mineral powder or foundation, you actually store the product inside.
These series below (red and black) are not for sale, they are unique collections created by their artisans, they have gold decorations, designs or special paintings or decorations on them. They asked if there was interest for that kind of brushes and I said a big yes. Although making them with gold would be too expensive to even hit our little blog market, but anyway, I guess they got the idea
I had the pleasure of holding the gold Cleopatra brush (I understood the hair was a sort of weasel type) and lifting them (very heavy) but was scared to drop them, I would never ever be able to pay even a single one of these…
“Brushes and tea” at Tanseido’s with the Director… what else ??
Then it was time to leave, Jun and Natsuko had an appointment (to have future brushes photographed for their site, yeahhh!) so they dropped me at the hotel but I met them both afterwards for dinner. They invited me to a place that had a lot of life, like a pub I would say. They ordered a few different things from the menu and it really looked like Tapas but Japanese-style
I enjoyed our dinner very much, we talked about everything, they told me what their hobbies were, Natsuko loves to wear the traditional Kimono and Jun loves VTT, they also have some other hobbies or passions, it was really fun to spend some time with them ! They were amazing and treated me like a queen !
The day after, I had to go by myself to Kumano and they helped me with instructions how to get there, that was really nice because it’s not easy to travel to Kumano if you don’t get some help. If you have read my previous post “Enjoying Japan” you know already that later I went to Miyajima and met Natsuko’s lovely sister
It was a very long day, full of activities and both my body and my brain were about to give up
I hope this helped you understand why they don’t have (yet) a big international structure behind and why sometimes some companies are out of stock for some products, they don’t have big stocks but they work very hard, when you own a Japanese brush you know you own something made with honour and pride.