This set is rare, expensive, a masterpiece. If you are an extreme make up brush lover, you either have it or you heard of it. I know a few of you own it but I think there aren’t any reviews online yet.
First question you may have (that I can even hear from here) is “is it worth it?” If this is the only thing that you want to know right now, I’ll say it: Yes it is, for an extreme makeup brush lover, it definitely is. If you want to know more, please stay with me!
This set is called the Kiwami, made by Tesshu Takemori, Chairman of Chikuhodo, to commemorate the 60th Birthday of the Company founded in 1952. Not sure if the set is LE (I am waiting for their confirmation) or if it will be discontinued but I’ll keep you informed when I receive their feedback. Depending where you buy it, it costs from 1540 usd to 2200 usd approx. If you are lucky enough to buy it in Japan you will get a more affordable price for this masterpiece.
It comes with 9 brushes and a nylon holder in a beautiful cardboard box and with a plastic tray or protector. At the back there is the name of each brush, sometimes they carry the same name so I adapted the names myself.
When I met Chikuhodo’s President, Mr Shin Takemori and his son Terakado I had one of the most amazing moments. When I took the picture of both, Mr Tesshu Takemori was standing right behind me. Later that morning when we were in Mr Takemori’s office to take a group picture, they wanted to call him but he had just left the manufacture so the only moment I spent with him is when I took this pic because he was there – but unfortunately you can’t see him… Hopefully when I’ll be in Japan this year I can meet him again and take another picture for you.
This is the elegant cardboard box :
Red inside :
Each brush arrives wrapped separately but I did not take a proper picture before unwrapping… was too excited! They send it with a plastic protector that serves as “tray” :
You can also use it to wrap them before you put them inside the holder to travel.
It will prevent the cover to be accidentally be pushed against the surface of the brushes since it’s rigid and longer than the brushes :
Here is a view from above, they are tight but they aren’t squeezed :
The holder is flexible, lightweight, looks really nice and is made by Artisan and Artist. I use it as a brush holder at home but I take care that the bristles are neither squeezed against each other nor too short for the sides of the holder, one of the sides is taller and some brushes are just too short and the hair is touching the sides which alters their shape, therefore one side of the holder for shorter brushes, one for longer brushes.
The smaller side is the base, the larger is the top part (I placed it upside down on the first picture with the brushes…). The top part has a little handle.
I was really excited to get it, red and black looks gorgeous together and the way it’s built makes it very functional.
The brushes are not sold separately, but hopefully in the pics you’ll see close options.
I bought the set with my own money and my expectations were so huge that the day I received it I expected “more” from it. I felt some bitterness because guess what ? I was feeling guilty. After having played with it for a little while I thought that it was “great” but that the z-series were just as good. I find the Z-series more dense, more evenly and nicely bundled. The canadian squirrel brushes were a disappointment at first, when I washed them they looked uneven, not that luxurious.
I was very concerned even though I know that canadian squirrel hair is very rare, specially long bristles like these, are they supposed to look that “uneven” ? I did not know… and who could I ask ? That’s when I decided to get the similar Takeda, to be able to compare apples to apples. To my knowledge there aren’t any other similar brushes within other brands, we’ll have to deal with what I have but if you know of other brands who carry similar brushes please let me know!
Since I was able to compare them to the Takeda, today I understand better the price of the Kiwamis
It took me a few days to absorb the fact I finally had the Kiwami after so so much drooling and it was tough to switch from guilt to pleasure but when I used them, it took me 1 swipe to realize the potential. I was not expecting that, I knew they would be beautiful to look at but I wasn’t expecting that they would perform so well.
The Big Powder brush (grey squirrel)
All these brushes have been made by Chikuhodo, also the Suqqu :
If you think the Z-9 is huge, think again and see what’s next to it….
It’s not as firm as the Z-9 but the Kiwami is a giant, not as dense either but still fabulous. If you own the Suqqu powder, it has a similar softness, flexibility and density, the Suqqu is just smaller and more directional.
The Z-1 is the most dense and firm of the group, then follows the MK-2, the Z-9, the Suqqu and last the Kiwami which is the less directional.
For size comparison purposes, here it is near other big brushes :
The Louise Young will deliver the heaviest coverage, then the Tom Ford, then the Fu-Shikaden (discontinued), then the G-9, same idea as the Kiwami but denser and more directional.
My HG bronzer is (well, was) the Z-9, today I reach more for the Kiwamis, I don’t even bother for the others at this moment, I may get tired of it but right now I can’t have enough of this set.
You will not get any precision whatsoever with this big powder brush but it will deliver a sheer coverage and make you feel like Cleopatra.
I use it with bronzer or with powder, and it’s fantastic with some bronzers that are a bit difficult to control when you have heavy hands. I thought I would not use it since I prefer much denser options but surprisingly it does get used a lot.
The other equivalent could be the Suqqu Powder or the Chikuhodo G-9 but the handle of the Kiwami brings a touch of luxury that the others don’t have.
The powder brush (brown squirrel)
After doing a bit of research, brown squirrel could be Kazan or Talahoutky, I am honestly confused and not sure which one it is exactly. In terms of shape and size it’s in between the MK-2 and the Z-9, slightly domed. It probably has the same amount of hair than the MK-2 or even more but it’s just less firm, less directional, meant for powder or bronzer. Sheer coverage but for me, that’s a plus and an addition to other brushes I own that deliver a heavier coverage . So soft and flexible but it still has enough density to pick up bronzers that aren’t powdery (TF Terra for example which has a more hard texture), it’s more adapted for an overall application and not a dramatic or sculpting one.
The body of the hair is different, looks like it has “split” ends, which I think gives the bristles more picking powder and more capabilities to diffuse the product evenly, couldn’t see that much difference but that’s the only thing that I noticed. I wasn’t thrilled at first because it doesn’t look that sleek and beautiful, not sure it is supposed to look like that since it’s the only brush I own of this hair but I find it is a quality. It’s different than the red squirrel you see next to it. Similar softness but the Kiwami is not as sleek and “slippery”.
Here you can clearly see that the Kiwami does not have a sharp pointed type of hair and smooth surface but today I consider this as a quality.
The way it works is a nice balance between how much it picks and how much it deposits, I don’t feel the need to blend because it won’t deposit too much product, not a great blender either but that is not required for what it is supposed to do.
The cheek brush (canadian squirrel)
The first time I saw these canadian hair brushes just after they had dried, I wasn’t that impressed. They didn’t look that amazing and I even thought the smaller one had a faulty and uneven bundling. When I first used this brush, my jaw dropped, it probably violently hit something because I felt knocked out for the rest of the day. This happened with both the cheek and the smaller highlight brushes. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have much expectations since I wasn’t that blown away by how they looked but I was certainly utterly impressed by the way they performed.
I don’t have to add that many comments to these two brushes, just that it’s the best material for a blush brush that I ever encountered. I could swear they have been taught to do the job all by themselves. There is something really really special about them, in the way the pick the product and in the way the place and blend. I am completely utterly madly in love, wasn’t suspecting that could happen at all.
I decided that in order to compare them to similar material brushes I had to order the Takeda. The Takeda were also very expensive because this type of hair is extremely rare -specially longer bristles. Today I was able to compare both brands and I am happy I did because it makes me love the Kiwami even more. The 2 Takeda shown here costed 200$ and 125$.
When you use this cheek brush, one swipe of the product and if it’s a very pigmented blush, don’t worry it will pack enough with just one swipe, then place and blend (that takes literally less than 2 seconds) and wait for the magic. I don’t know if other owners will think the same but I honestly am not over hyping the efficiency. The borders of the blush application are perfect, I compared it to grey squirrel and red squirrel, this canadian is the best result I could ever hope. The Z-series are also amazing but, if I had to choose, for me it would be super easy, Kiwami 100%. The difference with grey squirrel is not that striking, but I find it easier, when you place the blush the borders are automatically diffused in the best way possible, not too sharp, not too blended, I love when you can see the dimension and that is WORKING IN ONE FLAT SWIPE. I am not a huge fan of flat swipe brushes because I prefer the round brushes but this is an exception. With Tom Ford Wicked it works so well too, so beautiful, even with shimmery blushes or sheerer ones they do deliver.
The Takeda is nice but so much smaller and thin in comparison. The Z-8 is more directional, also a fantastic brush. You can see that the pine squirrel (BP017) is very different and you can recognize them easily, the canadian is more caramel.
The Takeda brush is much thinner and short it is in comparison, it performs well but it cannot be compared to the thickness of the Kiwami.
I took pictures of the brushes against my skin for you to see their size in scale…
The Kiwami :
The Takeda powder :
The Cheek/Highlight (canandian squirrel)
Same comments as above, great performance. The Takeda is much thinner, the Z-4 is denser, rounder, firmer. I put the other brushes in the pic for you to see the shape difference, it’s not a shape you see often, the Yojiya is similar, hair is finer, softer and the brush is denser than the Kiwami but I prefer the way the Kiwami diffuses the product. This blush category is very tough because I love all the brushes you see in the pic, I find them all perfectly achieved. Canadian squirrel hair is another type of “soft”, not as great looking as others but totally stealing the show when it comes to performance.
It depends what you are looking for in your application, one swipe-go is my type of application, controlled, no brainer. Although I don’t want my blush to look clowny I want it to be natural but clearly defined with no streaks and this matches 100% my expectations.
Kiwami cheek/hightlight :
The Takeda highlight :
The Eyeshadow brush n° 1 (canadian squirrel)
That one is a bit different, it’s long. I wouldn’t use it for contour but I would for highlight or setting powder. I prefer the shape of the Tanseido but it would be magic if it had the hair of the Kiwami. The Tanseido is more fluffy and you have more control since it has less flexibility.
The Tanseido is red squirrel hair, same usage as the Kiwami, I prefer to use the 4 brushes on the left for highlight or setting powder and leave the contour/shading application to goat brushes, you could multipurpose them, it’s a personal preference but in terms of efficiency for contouring I prefer harder brushes.
The eyeshadow n°2 – crease (canadian squirrel)
This is as special as it looks, completely drives me crazy. This is the cherry on the cake, a set with such a special brush is rare. So special that I think some of you may be tempted by the set just for that brush.
You see how tapered it is, and this is its shape, it will remain like that. If you prefer a more fluffy no brainer application, better head for Paula Dorf or Tom Ford 13 or the Rae Morris, they are all amazing. This Kiwami just delivers more precise placement, not much blending but I use it with very dark shades like the one in the Tom Ford Orchid Haze for the outer V and I don’t need much blending anyway. I want to squeeze it to death so much I love it!
It has the same firmness as the Tom Ford 13 but I would say it’s a combination of both Tom Ford 13 and 14, a “crease pencil” with enough surface at the top to place a generous amount of color without being floppy and without being too firm.
The most similar option could be the Kyureido Fine-kalla KK004 which is firmer since the hair is shorter.
The eyeshadow n° 3 – lid (canadian squirrel)
When I first saw it I thought I wouldn’t use it that much, was wrong. I do and very often. I love brushes like the Rae Morris 12 or this Kiwami, I am totally crazy for smallest lid brushes but they are often too rough, I will show you how many I own in my Rae Morris review (you will be surprised) but out of the bunch, my fav smaller lid brushes are the RM and the Kiwami because of how soft and efficient they are.
When I apply eyeshadow, I start with the outer v in a way that the eye is elongated, starting from the middle of the lid outwards and up. Then the space left for the light color is quite small because I don’t have big eyes so I use the little brushes to strategically place the color that will open my eyes. On a daily basis this is what I do and the reason why smaller brushes are so important for me. I don’t like layering too many shadows because at the end you just add more powdery effect and the lids when ageing don’t like too many layers anyway.
The eyebrow brush
It’s the same brush as in the Z-series, the Kiwami is water badger and the Z is raccoon.
I don’t see much difference between them and the thickness is the same so I am not sure if one is supposed to be better than the other. I just notice that the water badger has more strength with is great to work more with waxy products and that the raccoon feels slightly softer but on the brows I just don’t see a difference.
The lip brush
The Kiwami is weasel and the Lunasol is kolinsky hair. The application to me feels similar, you get a lot of precision with the Kiwami but my recent discovery of the Rae Morris is taking over the others.
The Kiwami is more rounder at the sides while the Rae Morris is totally flat, the Lunasol is the average between the two in terms of shape. The Kiwami is firmer than the Lunasol so if you wanted something with more direction, you can consider the Kiwami to be on your side. My preference goes to the RM, even if it is synthetic, I don’t use lipbrushes on a regular basis but the RM makes me want to. That’s just how I feel about lip brushes, not a necessity because if I want a stain of lipstick, I can use my fingers, since I don’t often use very dark lipsticks I don’t feel the urge to reach for the brushes that much.
Recently I am using a lip brush with Tom Ford Sweet Spot and I am really loving it! Makes it softer and more wearable for the office.
The Kiwami is a twist brush, the Lunasol is a push brush.
The handles look like ebony but I did not see where it was written it was ebony… here’s a pic with other similar looking handles. The finish of the Kiwami is more smooth, they feel incredibly luxurious and more cosy to hold than the Z-series, the ferrule is the same as the Z- series.
You can hop here to see the size of the brushes and more details of the set, if you browse with Chrome you can have the translation. You can also check them here. I don’t think Kohlindo.se have them in stock but I can ask if you are interested.
The set comes with several leaflets or instructions:
If you own this set, please share your thoughts in the comments for the others who are interested, any other thoughts, questions or comments are very welcome and highly appreciated, this will help to balance the pros and cons of the set.
It’s not because I love this set that you must rush and buy it because these are only my personal thoughts, today I am happy I bought it and it does work for me because I have many other functional brushes too. On its own this set will not answer all your makeup needs, you still need other brushes to fulfill other tasks (foundation, blending, etc) but no other set will make you feel as special as this one does. Worth the price ? The Japanese price yes definitely, not sure I would have paid more than that without having tried it first. Depends what your budget is