Whenever I’m in Japan, I always look forward to visiting my good friend Kyoka, a modern-day geisha and TATCHA muse whose image graces our home page (and even our office, in the form of a four-foot wide photo). But my most recent stay was even more special because it was the first I saw Kyoka since her formal debut in her “Erikae” ceremony. The “collar changing” ceremony is much like a graduation, symbolizing the transition from maiko (apprentice geisha) to official geiko status.
Her new kimono, hair and makeup were striking, but her personal transformation was even more breathtaking. When we first met, Kyoka had recently moved to Kyoto to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a geisha, and was studying with expert teachers at one of the top houses -- position akin to being a prima ballerina for a major ballet company.
After just a few minutes, I felt a deep connection with Kyoka, and over the course of many cups of tea and walks through temple gardens she shared with me her knowledge about the importance of ritual, dedication and artistry. With each conversation, I could sense her edging ever closer to poise, polished perfection – as a performer and an independent woman. (Especially the time she explained how she kept from perspiring on hot summer days in full kimono and makeup: “It’s the result of mental exercise,” she told me. I’m still working on that one!)
When I saw Kyoka this last time, it felt almost as if I was meeting a new person. Her familiar smile and gentle spirit still radiated, but her elegance and serenity struck me most. The sweet, slightly timid younger girl I had met years earlier was now an oasis of calm and confidence. And even though I never thought she ever could be more beautiful than the day I first met her, she somehow had. Reminding me, yet again, that our journey toward true beauty really does come from within.