Interview with a Japanese Makeup Artist: Kodo Nishimura

Posted on December 08 2019

Hi there! We are really happy to announce our first interview article is coming up today!

We've started interviewing with beauty insiders.

Our first interviewer is Kodo Nishimura. Kodo is a Japanese makeup artistmonk, and also recently starred in famous Netflix show: QueerEye "We're in Japan".

Let us explain how we met Kodo.

We're introduced to one of our friends last year that there is an amazing and passionate makeup artist who works with Miss Universe, Hollywood celebrities in Los Angels. Then we reached out if he can share his story with us.

What are Kodo's background and insights about Japanese beauty today? 

Japanese Makeup Artist: Kodo Nishimura

Cosme Hunt Team: We know that you are a makeup artist and also a Buddhist monk. Can you tell our Cosme Hunt subscribers a little bit about yourself and how you got into both roles?

Kodo: My father is a monk and I was born in a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. My expected duty was to follow in his footsteps but as a child, I would tell my mother I was a girl and wore her mini-skirt around the house. I would see myself as a princess, dancing to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. In kindergarten, I would teach other girls how to role play as Cinderella and I would be their fairy godmother. But as I grew older I was unable to honestly express myself for fear of humiliation. My sexuality made me feel inferior to those around me. 

And so I made my escape to the U.S. for college seeking a place where I could freely express myself. One of the motivating factors was watching the film, "Princess Diaries", and imagining that people in the U.S. were more open to differences. The desire to be my authentic self triggered this journey.

But when I moved to the U.S. my feelings of inferiority persisted. I would compare myself with people from different ethnic backgrounds. I felt shorter than most Americans, that my eyes were too narrow, my skin was lacking due to eczema, and I felt isolated once again. But then in 2007 Miss Japan won the Miss Universe pageant. I was mesmerized by her presentation and beautiful makeup that accentuated her Japanese features. And so instead of hating my difference to others, I embraced it. I realized it was within my power to present my inner beauty to the world and not just to reflect on how the world may see me. That's when I picked up eyeliner and mascara and expressed myself again. 

I also made a good friend in the U.S. from Japan who was struggling as an international student. To encourage her I applied eyeliner and mascara on her and she started to sparkle, becoming more outgoing and generally happier in her demeanor. That was when I decided to take the art of makeup much more seriously. In order to protect and to fortify the precious people around me, I would have to learn the fundamentals of foundation, eye shadow, lips, all of the aspects that were overwhelming for me at first. 

As you can imagine going back to Japan to become a monk was not an easy decision for me. I was never interested before because I had only wanted to be a princess, but I knew this would be a crucial challenge and could be a way to grow further as a human being. Studying Fine Arts in New York made me realize that I had to know who I was on a deeper level to succeed on a global stage. I had to unearth the roots of who I am in order to expose my vulnerabilities and thus inspire others. 

Reluctantly I joined the Buddhist training to be a monk but was deeply fearful that my sexuality would be unwelcome, and wearing makeup could become a thing of the past. But my master told me that "the message of equality for all is the most important factor of Buddhism. Japanese monks wear watches and regular clothing these days and so I do not see any problems with you wearing something shiny." He taught me that Buddhism accepts everybody as they are. There is nothing against the LGBTQ community and anybody and everybody is equal. Race, sexuality, status, or age does not make anyone inferior or superior. This knowledge brought me a newfound confidence as well as a mission to share the message that saved me. I need to spread the word that in Buddhism nobody needs to feel guilty for who they are. 

Favorite Japanese Makeup Products

Cosme Hunt Team: What makeup products do you use daily?

Kodo: Usually, I don’t wear any makeup. Makeup is a tool for me to deliver my message, and to emphasize that freedom to wear it is validHowever, when I want to present myself naturally yet professionally, I try to cover acne scars, fill in brows and have some color on my lips.  I like "Cinema Secret - Ultimate Foundation" and "Ben Nye - Luxury Powder in Banana" on my face. I forget I have makeup on, and it looks like my natural skin. For my eyebrows, I use liquid black liner in a pot. I use Make Up For Ever Ultra lip booster in “Cinema” to tint my lips. This product gives a natural tint and shine.

When I wear smokey eyes, I love to use “Cork” eyeshadow by MAC and “Dolce Vita” eyeshadow from Addiction to create dimensionality. I like Star Lit Diamond Powder in Golden as a glittery highlight on my eyes. I like Ardel Lashes in Demi Whispies that elongates the narrow eyes. I like Aqua XL eyeliner from Makeup For Ever in Matte Black.  I use Cozette beauty Infinite Contour palette for creating dimensions on my cheekbones.

Favorite Japanese Skincare Brands

Cosme Hunt Team: We know that you were born in Japan. Do you like Japanese skincare? What brands are your favorite?

Kodo: I use Gokujun Lotion by Rotho for toner and a moisturizing cream by Botchan. Sometimes I use Vitamin C serum so that I can diminish the acne scars. I like makeup remover from Kyo no Oshiroi Otoshi. 

1) Lotion Gokujun 

The Lotion is very affordable, it does not sting my skin at all, even if it goes into my eyes. I have been using it for nearly a decade.

2) Moisturizing Cream

Botchan cream is very moisturizing and it has a refreshing scent. I feel like I am entering into a spa with its scent.

3) Obagi Vitamin C Serum

I like this serum because it smells fresh, and makes my skin look smoother and pores to be minimized. I am healing from acne scars, so Vitamin C seems to be a good solution. It does not irritate my eczema either.

4) Makeup Remover

Kyo no Oshiroi Otoshi is great because it melts the makeup very fast and it does not sting my eyes. It is super easy to wash makeup, and my skin remains moist after removing makeup. It is something me and my mother use and I give this as a gift to my friends too.

Japanese Beauty vs. Western Beauty

Cosme Hunt Team: Do you think Japanese beauty is different from western beauty brands? How and what differentiates them?

Kodo: I think Japanese skincare provides a lot more hyaluronic acid lotions at an affordable cost. They are highly functional. I have tried high-end products too, but some of them stung my eczema-prone skin. I like to use Gokujun lotion all over my body after showering every day. 

What are Japanese Skincare Beauty Secrets?

Cosme Hunt Team: Can you share your Japanese skincare beauty secrets with our readers?

Kodo: I think many Japanese people do not tan at beaches, and many people wear SPF. It is tiresome to have to apply it, but I apply it before I go out. When I was staying in Spain, I saw many people enjoy sunbathing in the nude, but it is not as common in Japan to sunbathe and be tan. Also, another analysis as a makeup artist is that, although I did not like my flat and round face, I realized that having more dimensions might make your face look overly mature. As babies grow bigger, they will have more definitions in their faces and that is what makes them look like adults. Many Japanese people having rounder faces contributes to looking youthful.

Japanese Beauty is about Internal Care?

Cosme Hunt Team: We think Japanese beauty is about internal care and solving the roots of the problem. Do you think that Japanese skincare comes from the health of the body and mind? What are your thoughts about it?

Kodo: I think Japanese people tend to be well educated about nutrition from schools. I liked learning about macronutrients at school and eating balanced meals in our cafeterias. It makes us unconsciously aware of a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as an eye for colorful vegetables. Also, many people drink green tea daily, and tea is free at most restaurants in Japan. 

The Joy of LGBTQIA+ culture

Cosme Hunt Team: Is there anything you want to share about your experience in the beauty industry and your future plans? We heard that you are an advocate for LGBTQ rights and helped them to embrace their own beauty.

Kodo: There are many LGBTQ topics discussed globally today. In Japan, people tend to focus on the negative sides, such as suicide rates and discrimination. And thus people can have uneasy associations towards the LGBTQ community. Something to be regarded with pity and fear. Therefore I like to promote the happy side of LGBTQ culture that can entertain and delight all of us as human beings. LGBTQ culture can be very fashionable, beautiful and fun. I think we should all enjoy LGBTQ culture together. Trying Drag makeup, imitating Ru Paul's runway shows, watching Kinky Boots, participating in Gay Pride Parades, help share the harmless joy of LGBTQ culture. When it is fun, it is much easier to learn.

Look Ahead

How was our first interview article? 

We know Japanese beauty is still under the veil so we are happy this article would be a great opportunity for you to know about Japanese beauty more. Plus, the product, Gokujun Kodo was talking about is available on Cosme Hunt so please check it out now! We really appreciate this precious opportunity, thank you so much Kodo.

Our next interview is coming soon so look forward to it.

To find out more, visit our website and explore our blog!


 Maria Kurata

Studied international business in San Francisco after studied law and politics in Japan. Maria focuses on marketing and project management at Cosme Hunt.


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