Beautician Teruko Kobayashi promotes makeup for the deceased to make them look their best for the big send-off, believing she can offer mourning families a peaceful final moment with their dead loved ones.
Kobayashi, 78, who authored the book “Shiniyuku Hito eno Kesho” (“Makeup for Deceased People”), recently won the Beauty Science Society award for her efforts in promoting what she calls “angel makeup” for corpses, in cooperation with nurses and hospitals across Japan.
She said that she believes makeup should “generate feelings that children have when they are in their mothers’ arms,” and that it should not only make someone beautiful but also heal their heart, develop their beauty and give them confidence, including, presumably, the dead.
Her philosophy may be linked to her family background. A native of Tokyo, Kobayashi was raised by “a total of five parents — two fathers and three mothers” during the war.
Her parents divorced when she was 3 and from then on she was raised by her father and stepmother. But she lost her father and ended up at the home of her stepmother’s older brother and his wife.
Kobayashi’s career as a beautician began at a cosmetics company, where she worked as a beauty instructor.
After establishing makeup techniques that help realize a natural and fresh look, which would later come in especially handy for her work with corpses, she founded the beauty research institute BeFine Co. in 1991.
Kobayashi is also known for applying makeup to entire bodies. She started angel makeup for the deceased at age 25 and has since used it on more than 50 of her dead friends and acquaintances.
“A person’s life includes death,” Kobayashi said, explaining she has seen many families who “do not want to show visitors the gaunt faces of their loved ones at funerals.”
Kobayashi said interest in death has been growing in Japan as its society grays, noting that around 350 hospitals nationwide now offer angel makeup for patients who pass away.
Her dream is to establish a footing in New York to convey to the world what she views as Japan’s unique beauty on the occasion of her 80th birthday.