On one of my first trips to Kyoto, I visited a beautiful little shop tucked away on one of the cobblestone streets. I stepped inside and was amazed at the delicate, colorful world before me. The shop specialized in silk and embroidery for kimonos. Seeing it up close, I was mesmerized by the elaborate details and the delicate, whisper-thin fabric.

In addition to his array of silks, the owner kept a library of the history of the kimono, which stretches back centuries. I knew that silk has been treasured since ancient times, when its use was reserved for emperors and royalty. But I was fascinated to learn that treatises and precious documents were written out on silk paper, and a length of silk cloth was once so valuable it was used as currency.

In Japan, the fabric has become so ingrained in the culture that there is a beautiful saying about maiko, or young apprentice geisha: “If you look closely at a maiko’s skin, it is made of pure silk.”

When studying our centuries-old beauty book detailing timeless geisha rituals, I had always been struck by one illustration in particular. In it, young women are poised over an elegant tub, washing themselves with swatches of fabric. The translation explained that geisha would often use leftover strips of kimono silk to wash themselves, finding that it left their skin smoother and softer.

We wanted to bring this ritual to life, particularly given the many benefits of silk for the skin. Working with one of the most established silk purveyors in Kyoto, we created a beautiful cloth of 100% silk, our Kinu Pure Silk Polishing Face Cloth. I’m honored to introduce this important piece of geisha heritage and their secret to having the silken skin of a maiko.

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published January 2015

Beauty Secrets, Geisha
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