Also, she has often surprised people by being able to tell them the types of skincare products they use — sometimes down to the brand. Now just 65 years young, Saeki attributes her deep understanding of skincare to a year career in the beauty industry — including stints as a beauty consultant at French cosmetics-maker Guerlain and as an international training manager at Parfums Christian Dior. But she says that what has really shaped her fundamental values on beauty and skincare has been her eventful, turbulent life. Growing up in a dysfunctional, fatherless family in a farming village in Koga, Shiga Prefecture, she spent most of her childhood in the care of her grandparents, who raised her with affection and taught her the importance of valuing nature. Then, while living with an aunt who ran a small restaurant in Osaka, she realized that women working in such a world could barely make a living.
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Also, she has often surprised people by being able to tell them the types of skincare products they use — sometimes down to the brand.
Now just 65 years young, Saeki attributes her deep understanding of skincare to a year career in the beauty industry — including stints as a beauty consultant at French cosmetics-maker Guerlain and as an international training manager at Parfums Christian Dior.
But she says that what has really shaped her fundamental values on beauty and skincare has been her eventful, turbulent life. Growing up in a dysfunctional, fatherless family in a farming village in Koga, Shiga Prefecture, she spent most of her childhood in the care of her grandparents, who raised her with affection and taught her the importance of valuing nature. Then, while living with an aunt who ran a small restaurant in Osaka, she realized that women working in such a world could barely make a living.
Shaken by this blunt dose of reality, Saeki says she determined there and then to get back on her feet. The first thing she did was try to restore her face. By this time, her skin had sagged and become wrinkled, and black bags had formed under her eyes.
Consequently, that became a turning point in her life, she says, noting that, along the way, she became convinced that skincare begins and ends with willpower. In addition, since her first book was published five years ago, Saeki has written more than 30 others covering skincare and self-help — and also her memoirs.
All of them have been best-sellers. Saeki — with her spotless, porcelain skin radiating beauty and health — recently sat down to share with JT readers her skincare passion, her views on Japanese women and much more. I understand that you first became interested in beauty because of Audrey Hepburn.
Up until then I was like a boy, running around and playing dodge-ball and softball under the scorching sun. When I saw that photo of her, I was shocked to realize that such an elegant and beautiful woman existed in the world. My mother had worked in the rice paddies, so she was tanned and had lots of blemishes and freckles on her face.
I hated that about my mother. And also, I was pretty much raised by my grandparents, so I longed to be around ideal mothers. For instance, my first-grade teacher was such an attractive woman — her voice was so gentle, her demeanor so elegant, and she dressed smartly in suits. Was that when you were living in Koga with your grandparents?
I wished she had been my mother. And when I saw the picture of Audrey Hepburn, I stopped playing outdoors and switched to a table-tennis club. And I started watching movies. Back then only samurai movies came to my area, but I was very attracted to the ones featuring princesses. I was also influenced by my grandparents, who taught me how to respect others.
They urged me to see, eat and listen to things that are good. My grandmother also taught me how to find beauty in things that are not new. If your clothes are old and have holes, they can still look neat if the holes are patched up.
So she taught me how to be thankful for what I have and not to waste things. So is it true to say that all that helped to shape who you are today? Plus, my grandfather was full of appreciation for nature. My grandmother was also attentive about her appearance. While she did not wear makeup, she took care of her hair with tsubaki camellia oil extract and applied rice bran on her face every morning.
My aunt ran a Japanese restaurant in Sonezaki, Osaka, and I used to see those regular obasan middle-aged women washing in a public bathhouse, then wearing makeup and kimono and — surprise! I believe that when you were in high school you were interested in becoming a maiko apprentice geisha. Why was that?
I just found them so pretty, with their white skin and lovely clothes. Another time, I found my physical education teacher so attractive that I wanted to become a PE teacher myself, too.
Other girls my age fancied male teachers in school or were going out with so-and-so, but because I was a movie fanatic, I fell in love with men in the movies. I also loved the male roles played by women in the Takarazuka musical revue. I saw how men got drunk, smoked and behaved badly at these establishments. Plus, my father was one of those types who did all that nomu drinking , utsu gambling and kau buying women stuff. So I thought all men were the same. Despite your difficult upbringing, you never became a delinquent.
Why do you think that was? I was too busy watching movies! I liked the type of natural, refreshing love portrayed by Hepburn.
I also had a strong desire to get married. Preferably older and gentle. I just wanted to marry a man I could have a good family life with and could do things for. Were you happy in your life with your husband, Arinori? My husband also lost his father while he was in high school, so he had yearnings for a warm family as well. We had a great time together. I wanted to give, to do things for him.
It was so sudden. He showed no signs of cancer before his diagnosis. That was because I wanted to put him in my body. The ashes you eat go down and out of your body after all, as poop. Do you want to lose them all? This might sound elementary, but why is it so important to have a beautiful skin?
The art of beauty is all about strength of mind. When people realize how beautiful their skin is, their minds change completely. They have different smiles. In fact, your attitude completely changes when you realize how beautiful you are.
Your choice of clothes changes, and you feel confident and energized about your abilities to do different things. It gives you a chance to take a second look at yourself. Everything going on inside you comes out on your skin.
How long did it take for you to feel the changes? I saw some results in a week. Human skin is renewed every 28 to 30 days, and your blood gets replaced in three months. So I realized stronger results in three months, and felt motivated to continue for another three months — then another three months.
Everyone can have great, smooth skin. It all depends on how you take care of it. So you are against the antiaging movement? Antiaging sounds negative.
The desire to become beautiful does not just apply to your face. After all, cosmetics are about selling dreams. I just wanted to help make ordinary people beautiful. Of course, I have absolute confidence in being able to sell cosmetics well, as I have spent years training people to do that.
And certainly, creating a cosmetics line would be more profitable, but what I wanted to do was not business. Is that really true? Most of them sell expensive books of tickets for a series of sessions , use machines and cram more rooms into their space — not like here. We only have five rooms, and no machines. But I created this salon to realize the dreams of women to enhance their beauty.
I have huge debts. That makes me realize how my message is not being heard enough. But techniques change with time. There is no point in keeping old knowhow a secret. More and more products that have adjusted to modern lifestyles are becoming available, so the job of beauty advisers is let people know how to incorporate these new types of products into their daily skincare routines.
The environment is changing rapidly, with the ozone layer being destroyed, and some people are deliberately tanning their skins. Many other people have very high-calorie diets. So we must offer advice that takes such changes into account.
What is your opinion of Japanese women in general? Young people are dependent on others. They rely on what others say and what TV commercials promote when deciding what cosmetics to use. Look at all those makeup products out there! But if you ask me, I think their skin is getting worse. But now, so many women here drink alcohol and smoke.
So do you think Japanese women used to have better skin in the past?
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