Profession: Makeup Artist and Buddhist Monk
Location: Tokyo, Japan and New York City
You’re a makeup artist who works with celebrities and has almost ten thousand followers on Instagram; you’re also a Buddhist monk in the Pure Land tradition. These are two very different roles—how did you become interested in them?
I grew up in a temple that my father runs in the heart of Tokyo, but when I was 18, I came to the United States to study and work as an artist. I had no interest in becoming a monk. I went to school at Dean College in Massachusetts. When I arrived I was overwhelmed by the diversity of the students’ physical attributes. There were blonde, slim, beautiful women and strong athletes, very muscular and wild-looking, like Hercules. I wasn’t able to find beauty in myself because I was shorter, with thin eyes that weren’t blue. I needed to find the beauty in myself. So I started to buy makeup products at department stores and play with them to accentuate my eyes. Then I started doing my best friend’s makeup too, and watched her transform and become much more sure of herself. I was very happy to see her growing into such a confident person. That’s when I realized the power of makeup.
After seven years in the United States, I graduated from my second university, Parsons School of Design in New York, where I had been assisting a makeup artist. I had been away from Japan long enough to begin to appreciate Japanese culture, and I began to admire the discipline and punctuality of its people. I felt that going back to my roots would be a great weapon for me to have. I was always competing with other art students with different backgrounds and unique identities, and by studying Buddhism and my own culture, I could find what was unique to me and become more sure of who I was and what I believed in. I also had a lot of questions—Why should we do good things for others? Why are we alive? What is the meaning of life? I wanted to learn the Buddhist answers, so I began training as a monk when I was 24. It was very intense. The teachers would yell at us if we were walking too slowly to class. It wasn’t relaxing or enlightening in the beginning! The students were shocked that training at a temple was such a hard, strict thing. I was 26 when I finished the process and started my life as a monk.”