Koyomo brushes have been discovered by a dear friend who stumbled upon them in October 2014, she posted in the forum and we started talking and making strategic plans to get them… I was determined not to splurge, yet. When I finally did it was much later, actually in April 2015, part of my haul was a present for my birthday. I had them on my radar for a while but I have many things on my radar all the time and we can’t just trigger our wallets at each radar detection can we? Even though sometimes the urge is killing us!!!
These brushes are la crème de la crème when it comes to goat hair. Top goat grade is Saikoho, then follows Sokoho, then comes Ototsuho. Saikoho is a better selection of bristles from Sokoho. For the brush connoisseurs, there is an even better grade called Saibikoho (an even better selection from Saikoho) but it is utterly unaffordable.
The goat hair (type or grade) of these brushes is either Saikoho (chest), Sokoho (chest again) or white Ototsuho (shoulder) but unlike most goat brushes you can find today on the market, these bristles are from the 70’s, they call them KO (ancient) and YOMO (goat). KOYOMO is the name of these brushes but the manufacturer is called Tsubokawa and is located in Hiroshima, in a town called Kawajiri.
The particularity of the Koyomo hair is that within the same grade, this ancient hair is much softer than a newer equivalent.
A Koyomo Ototsuho from the 70’s will feel much more luxurious than a today’s Ototsuho, furthermore the hair texture is thicker and smoother resulting not only in more durability but also softness. I was wondering if all their brushes, regardless of their hair grade, where Koyomo hair. It is. Below you will find their answers to some of my questions.
The handles are something rather special, made of Sakura (cherry wood), they are crafted by Shinichi Sumikawa, a product designer and professor at Osaka University of arts who started his career at Sony. I am loving the google translation of the Japanese introduction: “Taking advantage of overseas stay experience of the world in 57 countries, and practice the design of free thinking that is not bound by common sense.” Not bound by common sense, I love this man. He won several awards and his talent and reputation are highly re-known. Of course he won an award for these brushes too. No surprise, they are different, so unique and extravagant.
They have Yuki (Saikoho), Tsuki (Saikoho), Hananuri (with a dark red handle, both available with Saikoho or Sokoho), Hana (red handle, Sokoho) and Pink series (white Ototsuho). Some are shown here on their website, others you can see them here on FudeJapan’s website.
When in normal life Sokoho and Ototsuho bristles are often too rough and unpleasant specially on very delicate skin, their Sokoho and Ototsuho bristles feel nearly as good as the highest grade of Saikoho, it will be difficult to tell the difference if you are not extremely familiar with all the grades. The fantastic thing about all their brushes is that they are all made with ancient hair, even the cheaper pink series.
I don’t have any Yuki brush to show you, I have a Tsuki cheek brush with Saikoho, a Hananuri powder brush with Saikoho, a Hana cheek with Sokoho and the Pink set with Ototsuho. I have at least one brush of each material so I will be able to compare them.
I use them all but they also have a place in my room where I can see them, it would be a sin to hide them in a drawer 😀
The Tsuki and Hananuri with dark red shiny handles are based on the traditional technique of Aizu paint and coated with Tamamushi (=”jewel beetle with iridescent wings“) lacquer, they apply multiple layers of lacquer and in between each layer they speckle it with silver. They say that they behave like leather, but not only it changes as you use it (give it 3 months), but also with temperature, weather and humidity, this is why it is so difficult to predict what exact hue your handle will reveal, even during the manufacturing process (50 to 60 days) and that is what makes every brush so unique. You can read further information regarding the technique here. I asked for some pictures of the process but unfortunately that did not happen, however if you hop here, you can see a step-by-step explanation with some pictures. Mine look very dark, the red hue shows more near the ferrule or in the base but under sunlight it shines very red, even though I don’t see an iridescence like a beetle, I see the red hue sometimes deeper, the black coating looking more or less transparent. Mine haven’t visibly changed, I just noticed that when it’s warmer and sunnier and there is more light entering the room, they look more red, it’s too soon for me to see any drastic changes and I haven’t use them enough as I have been away for quite a while.
Part of me doesn’t want to use them, afraid to damage them as they will definitely get some scratches with use, but part is dying to see how they will change with time, curiosity wins.
Some of my brushes are in the display, I use them and I put them back, others are on my vanity, the pink set is always there and always dirty…
Before I share my thoughts on each brush I have today, here is a table with the specs, the prices I have mentioned here are taken from Fudejapan’s website, they may change depending on where or how you purchase them so please double check before your order:
Saikoho goat hair is super soft, if you don’t want to go with squirrel brushes but you still want the softest natural bristles, you should go with saikoho. Saibikoho is a higher grade, even softer, like silk, but the price is much more expensive and unless you are a brush collector who needs saibikoho in his collection, for functionality purposes you don’t need it.
When you zoom into the bristles, you can see how fine these are. You can barely distinguish they are separate bristles.
It’s dense and not floppy at all, you get strength and control. If you like these kind of round flat shapes you will be thrilled with their brushes, but they have only those shapes for all face brushes.
The three Koyomo cheek brushes are on the left, one of each material, Saikoho, Sokoho and Ototsuho. As you go from Saikoho to Ototsuho, you feel the bristles thicken and you see that the density and strength of brush increases. The difference is so little that you have to have the three to be able to tell that there is a difference at all. The Ototsuho from Koyomo feels just as soft as the Saikoho from the Takumi series (T-4).
The Tanseido WC20 is Sokoho but it feels as soft as the Saikoho Takumi. The Hana (Sokoho) from Koyomo feels as soft as the Hakuhodo J210 which is actually Saikoho… I hope you are still with me and that I did not loose you 🙂 When I read myself it gives me a headache…
We often complain that even though we have the same brushes as someone else, with the same grade of hair, sometimes we don’t have the same quality or softness. There are different grades within the same grade and manufacturers can’t always do anything about it. Today thanks to Koyomo who emphasizes that, we know that the older the hair, the better the quality.
Mine is Saikoho but the normal brush is made with Sokoho. If you ask Toshiya from Fudejapan he can get you this brush with Saikoho if you prefer. The difference in softness is so little that both would be great brushes. I imagine that the Sokoho powder would eventually feel a bit stronger as the bristles would not be as fine but in terms of softness, not much difference.
The Koyudo BP006 is saikoho too, mine is super duper soft (and for now it’s “only” 75$, for that amount of hair and quality it’s a stunner), I wish it came with a different handle but if you love big fluffy brushes, you need this one. My BP006’s softness is equivalent to something in between the Sokoho and Saikoho from Koyomo.
HANANURI EYE SHADOW
The Tom Ford and the Chikuhodo are both saikoho, however both the Koyomos are softer. The Chikuhodo T-8 is more tapered and firmer, fantastic little precise brush. The Tom Ford is longer but still firm and dense. All of them are fantastic brushes.
The Koyomo Hananuri feels a bit more dense and firm than the Pink one, but the softness is close.
The Koyomo brushes look a bit like special toys… shorter than most brands but the ergonomics are well studied, the thick butt balances it nicely.
This is Sokoho hair but truly soft and very efficient. It has the same shape as both the Tsuki and the Pink cheek so I will not bore you with more comments, please refer to my previous comments in the group pic above.
THE PINK OTOTSUHO SET
It is also available individually. They are shorter, I don’t like short handles but you give me this price with this quality and I am quite happy.
If you don’t mind short (and pink) handles, get them as you will certainly enjoy them. They don’t have the extreme handles of the Hana or Tsuki series but you still get a fantastic hair and a really good deal.
I was really surprised with this little set, I was totally going to skip them but I am really glad I have them.
Since I have already mentioned them previously in the group pics and comments, now I will just show you a few more close ups:
Exact same colour handles as the Koyudo baby pink:
Even shorter than the Koyudo Fu-pas:
They come in cardboard boxes with this logo and finish:
The coloured dots on the packaging are a nice consequence of the recycling, the boxes are made from the recycled paper of paper cranes dedicated to the Memorial Tower in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
I have been there twice and there is a huge amount of paper cranes gathered there, a pic from two years ago:
The individual box:
A close-up of the padding:
If you want something traditional, unique, efficient and of great quality, these brushes are a fantastic opportunity but they come with a high price tag, which is the only downside.
I sent some questions for Koyomo via Toshiya, he met them in order to get the answers for me so I will paste them below hoping it gives you even more info about them. Toshiya is the person behind the Fudejapan website, he has direct contact with Koyomo and since it’s so difficult to order, best way if you are not in Japan is to contact Fudejapan and send him this form.
There is also a lot more information on Cornelia’s youtube chanel, here is the link.
Thank you so much for accepting this little interview, could you please introduce yourself and Koyomo?
Thank you. We are a Kawajiri Fude company. Kawajiri fude is known as a high-end product. We established our company in 1939.
What is Koyomo’s company philosophy?
– We make high-end products with good qualities.
You also manufacture ear cleaning brushes, what is the best technique to use them properly?
This is to clean ears but the main benefit is to be relaxed with this brush.
Are you targeting a particular type of audience with your make-up brushes? Do you need to be an expert to use such high quality brushes or can anybody enjoy and use them easily?
We target high-income consumers with relatively old people. This group has been main clients, but our brushes can be easily used by general consumers with no special knowledge.
Your make-up brushes have similar shapes across all the collections (Yuki, Tsuki, Hana), why did you select this shape and are you considering to add additional brush shapes to your collections?
We design our brushes, with a image of women’s gentle shape and how women stand. We have no plan to add new lines now.
It looks like the make-up brushes you designed are meant to be used perpendicularly, how much pressure can we put on the heads while using the brushes? Is it safe to use them with firmness or are they delicate and require special handling?
You can use our brushes with firmness. And it can be also used softly to delicate skin.
We learn from your website that KO means ancient and YOMO means goat, does it means that all your brushes are made with the same ancient goat hair, including the more affordable pink handled brushes?
Yes, all of our make up brushes are made from koyomo.
I read that all your make-up brushes are from different types of goat hair, Saikoho, Sokoho, or white Ototsuho but is it all ancient goat hair?
Yes they are all ancient goat hair.
What is the difference between each type of goat hair? What type is more precious and why?
Saikoho is hair selected for better quality. Sokoho and Saikoho are taken from the same place of a goat.
You mention that this ancient hair is more durable due to its quality and density, are they any precautions or extra care to take into consideration when storing the brushes or washing them? Especially for the Yuki and Tsuki.
Normal care is sufficient. You can clean dust after your daily use and wash it with soap or shampoo from time to time. You dry with no sunshine with hair down. If hair is up, water might be inside a ferrule.
Are all the handles made out of cherry wood?
Yes, all are made from Sakura.
You forward them to Shinichi Sumikawa to paint the handles, would it be possible to see a few pictures of the Aizu Urushi coating painting process?
Shinichi Sumikawa designed fude shapes which won the good design award. Each fude is made in the region of Aizu, northern region of Japan. Aizu-Urushi is a way of painting lacquer ware, putting urushi over and over.
Why is it difficult to predict the intensity of the shade that will be applied onto the Aizu Urushi handle?
– Urushi shades will change with weather, humidity and temperature. It changes on a daily basis.
“The more we use them, the more the shade will change”, when used regularly, when is the hue going to start showing some changes?
After three months of use in general. It can be compared with leather.
What makes this ancient hair such a precious material? Is it like wine that somehow gets better with ageing or was it because in the 70’s the goat hair quality was much better?
It is goat hair taken in the 70’s, when goats are raised under the condition very close to the natural environment. Grass is natural, and water is more pure. The environment made goat and the hair special.
How important is it for you to achieve the perfect make-up or calligraphy brush and how do you know when to be happy and satisfied with your creations? Do you have special people dedicated to testing and designing your brushes?
Hair is not cut but rather similar hair is gathered, and only a good portion of hair is selected for makeup brush, so more than a half of hair is wasted. This process needs special skill.
Testing is done only by Mr. Tsubokawa, the owner.
How long does it take to create a Yuki or Tsuki brush?
Yuki and Tsuki take 50- 60 days. Hana takes 45-50 days.
What is the difference between the Sokoho Hananuri and the Sokoho Hana ? What is the difference between the red and the brown Hana? Is it just the colour of the lacquer?
It is the urushi method that makes a difference. Hananuri painting is to put urushi over and over. Hana painting is to put urushi and then dry it by towel.
Do your customers mostly purchase your brushes for their uniqueness and to display them or do their purchase them to be used?
Our customers choose our brushes based on both qualities and beauty.
How is such a make-up brush like the Yuki Saikoho perceived in Japan? Is it seen as a piece of art, as jewellery or a precious item?
Some customers see our brushes as an art.
What is your most beloved brush from the whole range?
Hananuri is an award winning brush, and represents our brushes in a good way. We want to let more people know about Hananuri more.
Do you only sell your brushes online or do you have a show room or boutique where they are displayed?