• Beniko

34. Oshiroi, White Makeup


People often ask, ”Why Maiko (舞妓) put on such a heavy makeup all in white?"

To answer the question, my Oneisan (お姉さん, mentor Geiko) taught me that Shironuri or Oshiroi (白塗り or おしろい, white makeup) was employed because of the poor lighting in the old times when there was no electricity. At that times, the only light source at night was dim candles, and people invented Oshiroi in order to make Maiko look fairer in the dark room.

The method of putting on a Oshiroi make up is not what you learn in Nyokoba (女紅場, school for Maiko), but to master by mimicking advanced Maiko or Oneisan (お姉さん, Geiko) at the same Yakata (屋形, Maiko house). Hence, each Yakata has its unique steps of Oshiroi, slightly different from one another. It takes some time before you become good at it. When I was very new, drawing heavy eye lines nor bigger lips were strictly banned. However, as I became more experienced, I was allowed to arrange my Oshiroi as I like.

Basically, Oshiroi make up consists of only three colors, namely: 1) white for foundation, 2) red for eyes and lips, and 3) black for eye brows and eye lines. I wonder why Oshiroi makes Maiko such beautiful only with these three colors. We don't use any fancy variations of eye shadows, yet Oshiroi give our eyes a very effective shades and highlights.

In addition, Eriashi (襟足, hairline along the neck) make up can be an important factor of the Oshiroi process. When I was a Shikomi-san (仕込みさん, a Maiko trainee), I used to draw Eriashi on my Oneisan's nape, and it was great lessons to me. Still today, I go to a beauty parlor to get a shave on my nape beforehand, whenever I get dressed in Kimono (着物).

Anyways, isn't it strange that nobody ever have heard of Maiko with rough skin. I don't know the truth, but I guess the secret lies in the ingredients of the white makeup, consists of quality natural material.

Thank you very much.

Talk to you soon.

Beniko

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