4 Beauty Secrets I Learned From My Japanese Grandmother


Haobin Ye for Byrdie

At Byrdie HQ, it's our MO to celebrate beauty from every corner of the world. The beauty customs of different cultures are unique and steeped in history, and by learning about them, we're able to expand our own perspectives (not to mention pick up a life-changing new tip or two). That's why we're proclaiming this week Global Beauty Week and paying special homage to women far and wide, from Thailand to Russia and beyond. Each day, we'll honor the beauty practices, trends, and traditions of our sisters around the globe—complex, intriguing, and versatile as they are. Enjoy!

Some of my earliest memories of my grandmother were actually made in her absence—secretly exploring a forbidden room at my grandparents' house in Hawaii. My family would take the flight from Seattle to Honolulu to visit my aunts and cousins and spend school breaks with Roy and Nobuko Nakamoto, my mom's parents. At four or five years old, I'd sneak alone into the quiet place denoted as "Grandma's room" to be instantly transported by the mysterious space's incongruent surroundings in the otherwise modern house.

Tatami mats lined the floor of the shadowy interior, and a large wardrobe held fragile creations I knew were precious—and forbidden to my touch—but did not otherwise understand. Ancient-looking bowls delicately wrapped in thin paper and unusual accessories I'd never seen before were carefully sorted on shelves. Hanging scrolls adorned the walls, and heavy drapes darkened the room to protect its contents from the hot Hawaiian sun. When I inquired about the mysterious hideaway, my parents would simply tell me it was Grandma's room. In childish wonder, I tried to picture my dear grandmother choosing to sleep in a bare, furniture-less room instead of in the master bedroom with Grandpa.