Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai remembers coming face-to-face with one of Japan’s elusive performing artists.

Geisha beauty rituals inspired Tsai to create her skincare brand, illustration courtesy of Tatcha

Seven years ago, I was in Kyoto meeting the artisans who make Tatcha’s gold leaf blotting paper.

I didn’t understand how the by-product of the gold leafing process becomes a beauty product, but geishas and Kabuki actors have used it to set their makeup for hundreds of years. When the artisans told me to ask a geisha [about it], I was like:

Do they even exist?

A couple hours later, I was with my translator in a teahouse, and one appeared, like an apparition walking down the corridor towards us.

Tsai in conversation with one of Japan’s revered entertainers, photograph courtesy of Victoria Tsai

I started crying because the geisha was so beautiful, like living, breathing art.

Everything down to the movement of the tip of her pinky finger was so graceful. I asked her all sorts of questions, but I could hardly concentrate.

I’m not sure why she spoke with me — the geisha world is small and very hard to penetrate — but [I like to think] it was because I was this random, crying, pregnant, American lady.

— as told to The Thick

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Tsai and a geisha stroll the streets of Japan, photograph courtesy of Victoria Tsai