A sweet brush fairy tale in Japan – Chapter 3: Chikuhodo
Today I’ll bring to you a new perspective of our beauty related interest -or huge passion for some, you probably already know this Company or own some of their products but if you are interested in the mystery and beauty behind Chikuhodo I hope this chapter will be informative.
Due to the size of this Company I didn’t think that I would be able to meet them at all. I contacted my friend Malin from Kohlindo.se and asked her if it was a good idea and specially a feasable one to visit their manufacture in Kumano.
Thanks to Malin and her Kumano friend Yumie, not only I was able to visit Chikuhodo, but again, my visit reached a new level beyond all expectations.
When I received an email from Yumie I was pleasantly surprised, our meeting was then arranged for the 30th of May at 10am at the Kumano Town Office and only then I started to realize that I was an insanely lucky woman
That day I had to go by myself to Kumano, thanks to Tanseido’s recommendations I knew I had to take the train in Hiroshima and go to Yano, then in Yano take a taxi or the bus to Kumano. If you take a taxi directly from Hiroshima it’s going to cost you a lot ! With my JR train pass, at least the train trip to Yano was included then the train would only be around 30 usd from there.
When I arrived to Yano I considered taking the bus but it was impossible, at the bus stop I could see only Japanese language, I knew I wouldn’t make it safely, well, safely yes but to where, that I don’t know !
I asked a Taxi to take me to Kumano. The whole taxi trip was hilarious, how can a taxi ride be “hilarious” ? because you take a taxi driven by the most energetic, honest and funny man ! The rear door opens (and closes) automatically in Japan (these are old taxis so it feeks like a scy-fy comedy when you are not aware). He spoke no English at all, he asked me where I as going and I told him “Kumano Town Center”. We spent a while trying to understand each other, obviously he had no idea what I was saying to him. Then I summarized to just “Kumano”, he said “hai hai hai” (yes yes yes) and started to drive. To where, I didn’t know yet.
After a while I started to see the road signs to Kumano *relief*, this man was talking to me all the time in Japanese, I had no clue what he was telling me but he was laughing like crazy and that was contagious we kept talking and not understanding each other, and I was trying to say Kumano “center” or “town office” obviously when I said “center” that made him happy and he made a lot of signs with his arms, I had no idea what he was doing but after a while I saw this and I remembered it was in front of the Kumano Town Office :
and I shouted “HAI HAI HAI” and then he was just loosing his head laughing, jumping up and down with joy. Oh well… that was already a good start, I was where I had to be and way before schedule.
Since I didn’t had breakfast yet I thought it would be a great idea to try… I entered the Town Office and said “coffee”. No reaction. They just looked at me as if I was from another planet. Then I tried to mimic eating and drinking and they showed me where the restaurant was. It looked very local, I managed to order a breakfast menu and it was DELICIOUS -although I couldn’t eat everything it was perfect ! I got a huge thick toast covered with butter but I also got soup, coffee, eggs, rice, and a few other things. I think they were looking at me very surprised, I was famished and was eating like an ogre. The day before, my first “lunch” of the day was at 4pm when I was at Tanseido’s and I had a delicious little jelly pudding, then dinner at approx 7pm but that was all I had, I was drained and pale, until this amazing breakfast
I finished my big breakfast just in time and Yumie arrived before 10am to pick me up with her car. We drove to Chikuhodo, on our way we had to drop her little baby at her mother-in-law’s. I was happy to see a more local aspect of Japan, meeting so many local people shows you this country from a different angle.
So, let’s start with the Chikuhodo visit…
When we arrived at their offices (a bit more central than Tanseido or Koyudo), we were warmly welcomed by Mr Yutaro Takemori. Yutaro is in charge of Research and Development and he is the President’s son. The President is Mr Shin Takemori and Mr Tesshu Takemori (Shin’s father) is Chairman in the Company. They employ approx 100 artisans.
We went to the first floor and as usual we took our shoes off, we entered the President’s office, I recognized their office from pictures I had seen in the press, it felt like a dream.
When I saw Mr Shin Takemori I was very pleasantly surprised, I wasn’t sure he could be there that day. We did the typical business card/swiss chocolates exchange and we had tea, it went quite well, I was very nervous but I managed to not cause any political disaster. Yutaro and Yumie were translating and I don’t think I need to tell you how excited I was to meet them all.
Mr Shin Takemori was talking a lot to me, asking me questions and being incredibly nice and friendly. I told them how much we loved their brushes and they were extremely honored, surprised that the interest was international and surprised that I had such a passion for them and that I knew them so well. Mr Shin Takemori was showing a lot of interest in what I was doing for a living, he wanted to know where I was working and then I gave him my other business card, I had to explain and detail what I was doing in my job and what my company was selling to the world. He was very surprised, I don’t know why exactly but he was very happy to know that about me and I was kind of honoured too that he showed so much curiosity for my life
Mr Shin Takemori and his son were proudly showing us press articles and many of their brushes, I was very interested to see the Kiwami set and I could finally play with it, you can see part of it in the very first pic above, they gave us full approval to play with the brushes in their office, we were looking around, playing and taking pictures of everything (with their permission). Yumie and I were having extreme fun, looking at each other with big eyes and funny faces, they thought we knew each other for a long time and said that to Yumie, then she told them we had just met for the first time 30 minutes ago
Then we left for the tour, Yutaro spoke very good english, he was explaining and demonstrating all the processes. It was AMAZING ! he knew how to do every single thing in the manufacture and was commenting with a huge smile, he is really charming and fun.
This machine is mixing hair for quality consistency purposes :
Below, you can see the before and the after, the hair has to be worked with a white powder to clean them and then they are combed and all the bad hair is manually removed from the bunch to keep only the best for the brushes. Sorry for the picture and the black side of it
This picture below is one of my top favorites from the whole trip. During the tour with his son, Mr Shin Takemori went back to work, he is working at the production (here he was gluing the ferrules) and when we arrived there, Yutaro showed us how to shape the head of the brush with his hands to create a tapered shape, it is a manual process and now I see where and why the tapered effect of some brushes can slightly differ from others, this method is efficient and you really have to master it to get exactly the same shape on every single brush. Shame I could not film him since it was interesting to see that in action.
What I love about this picture is their beautiful smile and when I was taking the pic, Mr Tesshu Takemori was actually standing right behind me I was so happy to meet the 3 generations !
Below, Yutaro is puting the brush head inside the ferrule, it’s a very quick process where you place the head inside a plastic bag, you slide the bag inside the ferrule and then you remove the plastic at the other end or so it looks… . Everybody was laughing because I had no time to even see what he was doing ! He did it several times just for me to be able to see
As we were going forward in the tour, he was showing more processes, even the wooden molds that will be used during the head bundling (but I will tell you more about these in the post related to brush making).
This artisan is removing all the bad hair from the bundle, the white powder is not drugs it’s the product they use to clean and sanitize the hair as they work.
Some more artisans at work…
I was trying to take a glimpse into their boxes but it was causing uncontrollable drooling…
Here are some pictures I took inside Mr Takemori’s office, again a lot of drooling involved …
Maybe you can see some insane brushes in the pictures… difficult to resist, it was pure evil temptation… I don’t know what is worst, to be there but not be able to get them, or to not be there and avoid direct suffering…
Anyway, I hope they are not mad at me for the window drool cleaning they probably had to go through after my visit…
As you see they make the brushes for Twany, Suqqu, Est, Lissage, Chicca, Kamata, Lunasol, Shiseido, RMK, La Donna, Artisan&Artist, etc… I think also for Three (I did spot them but could not read the name). I didn’t shop at their boutique located in their manufacture because if I started it would be a financial disaster for me (not for them). I was hoping to see their brushes at the specific counters but that didn’t happen often, sometimes they are hidden away and brands like Twany (I was seriously lemming their brushes) could not be easily found. Sometimes I wanted to check them out but I just couldn’t. They were wrapped in packaging and had no testers. Sad Specially because the price of these brushes can be very high if you buy them via some reselling websites, better to get there at their counters but it was just not possible.
I just got a Chicca crease brush but still had no chance to try it properly, I will report on it in my future reviews.
If you look right in the middle of the below picture, you can see a retractable brush. That is the one Mr Shin Takemori gave me as a present.
I asked them if we could take a picture together, they were pleased and Mr Shin Takemori went out to look for his father Mr Tesshu Takemori, unfortunately he had just left the manufacture 2 mn ago. Sad because I could have left with a picture of the 3 generations together…
Notice the blue shirts ? Since I was wearing the same color I asked Mr Takemori if I could stay and work with them, that made them giggle I had no idea he would be wearing electric blue as a work outfit and wearing exactly the same color was really funny… but he still didn’t want to hire me
Mr Shin Takemori gave me two brushes as presents (and a lot of catalogs). He thought that this lipstick brush I would certainly not already have it because it was very unique and traditional, the other he said I could not have it either because it was only sold in Hiroshima.
I was crazy excited with this little retractable brush, exactly the shape I love in a gorgeous portable version ! it’s also nicely packed, denser than my fav Tanseido similar to this, so soft and flat ! I was really touched by the fact he was trying to give me unique presents, this is one was just too good to be true.
Sweet Yumie…. She is one of the most amazing and touching persons I have ever ever met in my entire life. I love her dearly and madly.
When we were about to leave (just because at some point they would have thrown me out), Yutaro asked me if I could write a message with a calligraphy brush on Mr Shin Takemori’s Guest Book.
I replied “Excuse-me, can you say again ?” He confirmed what I suspected and showed me the office where I had to sit. I said “… but I don’t know Japanese and have never used a calligraphy brush in my life !! I can’t do that to Mr Takemori !!”
He didn’t care about that, he said that I still had to leave him a message and he added “you have two pages“. TWO PAGES ???? he pushed me until I sat down and started. I was trying to remain serious but both Yutaro and Yumie were making me laugh and my hand was shaking too much to even pick up the ink on the brush ! Sorry.. I look really silly in this pic, I was just trying not to giggle like a little girl …
Did you ever try it ? I think everyone should try calligraphy ! I didn’t know what to write, how to write it. I saw that others had left their name so I said I would write my name and a thank you… When I draw the first letters Yumie looked impressed
After a few letters I was already feeling zenifyed and enjoying that so much ! It’s a great therapy that I adopted today.
I have erased my family name on the pictures in case you wonder what is the white stain in the middle.
Once I finished my message I was relieved I didn’t cause any damage neither to the desk nor the book
Not the most beautiful message but I did the best I could …
Yumie noticed how much I love it and she decided later on that it was time for me to also bring calligraphy into my life and she offered me a calligraphy brush.
After that we left the manufacture and went for a sushi lunch in Kumano, I already showed you the pic but here it is again. Charming restaurant and absolutely incredible sushi ! Yutaro joined us for lunch and that was also a surprise I wasn’t expecting. We enjoyed it very much, we spent a long while talking about his work and his life, I couldn’t believe I was spending such a wonderful time with both of them.
Yumie asked me if we could go check on her daughters that were in the kindergarten in Kumano (I understood they wanted to meet me), I have never seen such a happy bunch of well behaved children together. When they saw me they were shouting : “HELLOOOO HOW ARE YOUUUUUUUU” They spoke perfect english (just a few words but still just perfect!), they had a huge smile on their faces. The kindergarten is so beautiful I thought that you would love to see it, I know many of you have children and would be touched by this picture. Depending on the kindergarten they share the same space but they wear different hats. I spent a little while talking to them and I enjoyed it so very much.
Now for the most touching moment I’ll show you what I received from Yumie on my arrival. A picture of her children with this written at the back :
I have blurred their faces to protect their privacy but I am sure you can imagine my heart when I got this picture, I will frame it in my room
And her daughters gave me another present, origami paper for me to play with ! What they did not even know is that my 2013 calendar was an origami one, I had bought it because I have always wanted to try it just for fun, so far all I could do were boats, planes and frogs Today I can do a bit more of them. Sometimes when you are with children it’s a fun way to spend time and keep them entertained.
Isn’t that amazing to be welcomed like that ?
Yumie also gave a brush as present, this GS-T Temari Chikuhodo brush and the little bag. She told me she was using this brush every single day for years. I took it to Spain a few weeks ago and every time I was applying make up I was using it. I took the Serge Lutens foundation powder, the bronzer and blush and I was first applying the foundation then with the same brush the other two products. It doesn’t deliver big precision but it was perfect for what I wanted : a flash make up routine ! This brush is a big surprise and I remember Malin telling me some time ago that I should try it but since it was only goat hair I wasn’t sure I had to splurge. It is soft enough and very efficient and since it’s a present, it has even more interest and value !
This is the calligraphy brush Yumie gave me before my departure, she quickly grabbed it at home when we were on our way to the museum, she wanted me to get the thick paper to train on with water. When the water dries it reverts to its original state, so clever ! Her husband owns a calligraphy brush company by the way ! Kumano is just the source of all magic !
It’s very simple, you dip the brush in water and you write, after a few minutes it dries and you can start again until you master it. One day I will buy ink and proper paper but for now I have much to learn. All the calligraphy pens were very tempting, maybe in my next trip I will be able to try them and get a few of them, I have tried a few at the museum, the thicker the brush the more calming the process
One day, I gave the paper and the brush to my boyfriend and let him play with it for a while, he loves roaring engines and this had no engine whatsoever, I was spying on him to see if he liked it… I suppose he did because he didn’t stop for a while
The 4 brushes shown in the next picture are brushes that I bought at the shop in Ginza.
I will do a full review on the big G-9 powder brush because that one is absolutely amazing, once more my favorite shape, dense and fluffy, incredibly soft and delivers a natural finish with powder or bronzer. I wouldn’t use it for foundation because the bristles are too flexible but I love to apply bronzer with it, soft just like the Z-9, a top favorite of mine. It’s the first brush that caught my entire attention during the trip, the first one I bought and it was true love at first sight.
The foundation brush you see below (LQ-11) is also an wonderful discovery. Don’t be disappointed by the golden yellowish bristles, they aren’t as white as many other goat brushes but they are insanely efficient. This brush is bigger than the Shu Uemura 18 goat, it is much more efficient, easy and fast to use. It’s approx 3x the size of the Shu, I said in one of my past posts that I was looking for a brush 3x the size and here it is, as good as it gets. One of my go-to foundation brushes.
Following to this discovery, I have ordered this brush, which is from the very new series just launched. I prefer long handles and this one looks similar, I should receive it this week. I will be happy to have a similar one with a much longer handle, well, I hope it is as efficient as this one but I guess it will. I will keep you updated, there are many posts in the pipeline, many reviews coming, I just have a problem finding the time to prepare them at this moment.
I am going to conclude this little post with a question that both Mr Takemori father and his son asked me : “What profit do you get for yourself when writing about us ? you are not getting commission or any other compensation, why do you do it ?“.
They are right in terms of financial gain, I don’t gain money with that.
But I told them that having started this blog had many benefits on my life, I have now dear friends everywhere and in every country – or almost. I have met so many wonderful people since my blog adventure started and during my Japan trip that I got all the best compensation I could wish for.
That said… if one day I could only use my time to be devoted to my passion I most probably would not hesitate to do the switch !
Thank you Chikuhodo, Malin, Yumie, and thank you for reading and being here with me, I will never forget this magic adventure.