Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts – Tokyo Special Edition/[Western-style Clothing Brush] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS

Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts – Tokyo Special Edition/[Western-style Clothing Brush]

Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. The theme this time is in keeping with Casa BRUTUS’ Special Edition on Tokyo and features crafts from the period when the town was known as Edo, from 1603 to 1868. In Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, in a shop that’s stood continuously for three centuries, she came upon a handcrafted Western-style clothing brush.

“From clothes brushes to shoe brushes, to a tiny brush for a teapot spout… There’s too much here I want…!” exclaims our shopkeeper, KASHIYUKA. Founded in 1718, Edo-ya, located in the Odenma neighborhood of Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, is brush making royalty, having served as artisans to the Shogunate.
When Casa BRUTUS’ editorial office told me “the next issue will be the ‘Tokyo Issue’,” my thoughts turned immediately to Edo-era handcrafts originating from the fabled city. Edo-kiriko crystal glassware came to mind, as did the scissors made in that period, but I decided to visit Edo-ya, a brush maker in the Nihonbashi district. I was intrigued by their Te-ue (hand-embedded) brushes, and by the fact that the shop had been doing business in the same location for the past 300 years.
Purchase No. 8 [Western-style Clothing Brush]  Hand-embedded with high-quality natural hair, keeping alive an Edo-era practice.
In the charming atmosphere of the shop’s interior you’ll find rows and rows of brushes for Western clothing, for general cleaning, as well as cosmetic brushes used by professional Kabuki performers – altogether as many as 3,000 varieties. “The road in front of the shop dates from when Tokugawa Ieyasu launched the shogunate. This is the actual place from which ‘Edo’ emerged,” says Katsutoshi Hamada, 12th in the succession of owners of this shop. Amazing! It must have been bustling, and I mused that I would like to have seen the town in those days. I stepped into the area where Western clothes brushes are made.
Brushes for bottle cleaning, including beverage bottles.
Hand-embedded, mixed fiber-length clothing brushes. Both your clothes and this brush will wear well.
Brushes for bottle cleaning, including beverage bottles.
Hand-embedded, mixed fiber-length clothing brushes. Both your clothes and this brush will wear well.
“We use natural pig hair, and implant it by hand, so as not to crush the fiber tips,” says a brush crafter wearing traditional happi jacket and indigo work gloves. He plucks a few hairs between his fingers from among the light beige mound arranged on the work table. He folds them in half and embeds them in the wooden body of the brush.
At this point these hairs are typically folded in the middle, so that the tips line up. But at Edo-ya they purposely bend them slightly differently for every two to three implants, so that they alternate in height. This minute difference gives suppleness to the brush, and improves its ability to remove debris from clothing. I was astonished to note that the number of fibers grasped each time, as well as the location of the bend, are controlled only by hand and eye, and yet are unfailingly consistent. It was the way in which, with each grasp of fiber, the crafter realigns the remaining hair on the worktable, that brought me to the realization that in this regularity and repetition of motion lies the core of artisanship. Witnessing this was thrilling!