Japan is a country with traditions that harken back centuries, and the art of calligraphy is no doubt one of the most famous of them. For hundreds of years, craftsmen have honed their skills and provided the country with calligraphy brushes with which beautiful characters could be smoothly written, ink gliding along paper like a dream.

However, with modern times come modern challenges, a fact wisely acknowledged by Takemi Tsuchiya, the CEO of famed makeup brush company KOYUDO. “Calligraphy brushes are used in elementary education, but because the number of children is declining in Japan, we had to invent a new product and a new market,” he shared in a recent sit-down with Ryu Tokyo.

Having made the switch from calligraphy brush production fifteen years ago, KOYUDO is now one of the premier providers of fude, Japanese makeup brushes. Based in Kumano, a region within Hiroshima that’s known for its brush-making, KOYUDO has invented new products while protecting treasured traditions. The techniques that have been honed over many years through the making of their calligraphy brushes may be the key to KOYUDO’s makeup brush success.

“There are similar features between good calligraphy brushes and good makeup brushes,” Tsuchiya notes. “Good makeup brushes brighten your face and good calligraphy brushes are easy to write with. But, depending on what you want to express, we can adjust the softness of the top end of the brushes.” Just as a calligraphy brush is difficult to utilize if worn and rough, makeup brushes result in the same harshness if dull and blunt.

With this in mind, the employees at KOYUDO analyze and inspect each and every brush that passes through their hands, ensuring that every piece meets the company’s high, precise standards. Brushes are softened to a smooth, fine-haired surface, allowing for gentle, easy application. Any hair that is out of place or misaligned is swiftly removed, scratches and dents on handles are forbidden to make it past sharp eyes, and KOYUDO’s logo is proudly printed. These inspections are as clean and smooth as the makeup brushes themselves.

Enthusiastic reactions from consumers encourage Tsuchiya to continue to innovate and deliver the beloved brushes to people around the world. While reflecting on tradition, he looks boldly into the future. “I’ll continue to search for new possibilities throughout my life,” he says, nodding once, as sure and steady as a brushstroke.