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Geisha, myth and icon

Geisha, myth and icon

When I first travelled to Japan, I was searching for the gold-leaf blotting sheets that would become TATCHA’s original Aburatorigami beauty papers. I learned from local artisans that geisha and kabuki actors were the first to discover that the papers once used to create whisper-thin gold sheets are also ideal for keeping makeup petal-fresh. Up to that point, and like so many in the Western world, my understanding of geisha was almost entirely limited to the book Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and I had a vague idea that they might be courtesans. Growing up, however, I had often heard that Asian beauty regimes originated from the geisha’s rituals, thus I began my quest to meet a modern-day geisha and learn about her beauty rituals. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of amazing women who are, indeed, modern-day geisha. During our time together, they’ve not only shared their highly evolved beauty rituals, but they’ve also imparted great wisdom about their artistry and impossibly beautiful world. At TATCHA, we  work tirelessly to create a resource that not only mirrors the geisha’s rituals but also offers a glimpse into their world, a mysteriously alluring place so often misunderstood. Here are a few introductory points to begin:

- Geisha literally translates to “person of art”. These women are highly trained, elite performers who share an artistic lineage with kabuki actors.

- Geisha are often confused with courtesans when, in fact, they are actually respected artists dedicated to preserving time-honored arts including classical dance, playing musical instruments, hosting select clientele and supporting religious ceremonies for local temples.

- A geisha’s kimono can weigh up to 40 lbs. and requires the aid of a professional dresser, who is the only male allowed in her all-female living quarters.

- Geisha work 7 days a week training and entertaining, taking only 2 days per month to rest. This training continues until retirement as geisha believe there is always something new to learn.

- Geisha are revered amongst artists in Japan for their tireless devotion to their craft, which requires years of intense training across the arts.

- Geisha have been revered as beauty icons for centuries. The well-known white makeup that geisha are often known for is called oshiroi, and was originally used so that the audience could see them perform by candlelight.

- The Western perception of a geisha is always accompanied by her iconic makeup: snow-white skin, red lips, impeccably lined eyes. Through my travels, however, I’ve found that the real story of a geisha’s beauty lies beneath her makeup.

Victoria Signature

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

Published June 11, 2012
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