Anyway, there are a lot of tidbits I remember from Memoirs, but one in particular has to do with makeup. The title character of the book, Sayuri, comes to live in a geisha house, where the head geisha, Hatsumomo, takes an instant dislike to her (seeing her as a future rival).
Early in Sayuri’s education, Hatsumomo tells Sayuri to watch Hatsumomo putting on her makeup — so that Sayuri will see that there is no magic to the transformation, and realize that there is no hope that she (Sayuri) will ever be as beautiful as Hatsumomo.
I found the passage via Google Books, and it turned out I mis-remembered it slightly.Â I’ll tell you what I learned from it, and then give you the actual passage.
I remembered Sayuri describing the way Western women applied their lipstick (covering the full width of the mouth) as looking like “two slabs of tuna.”Â By contrast, she said, geisha painted their mouths to look like pansies, focusing on the center and ignoring the edges.
Somehow, I’ve never been able to get this image out of my head, so when I apply my lipstick (which is usually tube-directly-to-lips), I “cheat in.”Â With a diagonal motion, I use my finger to wipe away the corners, de-emphasizing the wideness, making my lips look just slightly poutier.Â I’m still imagining creating that pansy shape.
Here’s the actual passage:
White makeup causes all sorts of curious illusions; if a geisha were to paint the entire surface of her lips, her mouth would end up looking like two big slices of tuna. So most geisha prefer a poutier shape, more like the bloom of a violet. Unless a geisha has lips of this shape to begin with — and very few do — she nearly always paints on a more circle-shaped mouth than she actually has.