Toyohashi is situated at the center of the area which was once ruled by the Yoshida clan. Toward the end of the 18th century, the leader of the clan brought in Suzuki Jinzaemon from Kyoto, and he began making brushes for the clan. Gradually lower ranking samurai started this work and this marked the true beginnings of the craft in Toyohashi. Toward the end of the 19th century, Haga Jirokichi promoted the making of a coreless brush called a suihitsu and the same brushes are still being made today. Jirokichi was also instrumental in giving the craft a firm base in the area, and established a scheme for the training of apprentices.Being a style of writing brush in general use, the market for Toyohashi's brushes has been greatly affected by the importing of cheaper brushes from China. A great deal of effort is therefore being made to produce top quality brushes to appeal to the Japanese user, in order to survive in a very competitive market. Today, 15 of the 370 people engaged by the 76 companies in the area are designated as Master Craftsman by the government, and various types of brushes for calligraphy and painting are still being made with unfailing diligence, following traditional methods and techniques.
Coming first from China, the abacus was brought to Otsu from Nagasaki toward the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It was during the following Momoyama period (1573-1600), when Toyotomi Hideyoshi sieged Miki castle, that the people of this small castle town fled to nearby Otsu, where some learned how to make the abacus. When they finally returned to their homeland, they began making what became the Banshu abacus. The peak of production here was in 1960, when 3.6 million abacuses were made. Demand has gradually fallen since then due to the appearance of the electronic calculator. The abacus, however, still has value as it provides a much more graphic way of visualizing calculations, and as such still has a place in the curriculum of many schools, where in the past principals of education were "reading, writing and abacus". Some also believe that using an abacus can stimulate the brain and prevent senile dementia.Dense hardwoods such as ebony are used for the frame and boxwood and birch are used for the beads. The smooth operation of these abacuses is one of their special features but, the fineness and delicacy of the work, makes them works of art in wood. There are now 81 firms employing 197 staff, 12 of whom are government recognized Master Craftsmen.
During the Edo period (1600-1868), many farmers found life very difficult. When there was no farm work, peasants went off in search of work to the Kumano district in Kishu corresponding to present-day Wakayama and the Yoshino area of Yamato, which is now Nara Prefecture. On returning to their homelands they sold writing brushes and ink they had acquired from these places. Ultimately, this led to the making of brushes in Kumano. Toward the end of the Edo period, brushes were being made in a workshop set up by the Asano family, head of the Hiroshima clan. The techniques of brush making became a firmly established craft among the people and the handing down of these skills within the village marked the beginnings of Kumano brushes as they are known today.Many kinds of brushes for use in schools, for calligraphy, painting and even for makeup are being made by 134 firms employing 3,500 people, among whom are 18 government recognized Master Craftsmen.
Records exist showing that an Akama inkstone was offered at the Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura at the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185-1333). By the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868) these inkstones were being sold up and down the country. By the time that Mori was leading the local clan, unauthorized people were prohibited from mining the stone from which these inkstones were made and should one be needed as a gift at such times at the Sankin Kotai, when feudal lords travelled to live in Edo, permission to mine the stone had to be given by the head of the clan. This made it quite difficult to obtain one of these much prized inkstones from the Choshu clan.Akama inkstones possess all the right qualities of a good inkstone. The stone is hard and it has a close grain. It is beautifully patterned and is soft enough to work. The hobo on which the ink stick is ground has a close grain helping to produce ink quickly and of the best quality in terms of color and luster. These inkstones are now being produced by 7 firms employing 15 people, 2 of whom are government recognized Master Craftsmen.