Atsugesho (厚化粧)

Atsugesho is a word in Japanese referring the use of heavy makeup and cosmetics in order to make one's face look obviously different from a face without makeup.

As a whole, atsugesho can be classified into three types: the first is a rich-based type in which a color foundation is used that is much lighter than a natural skin color; another is a rich-pointed type in which thickly colored eye shadow is used widely around the eyes, thickly colored blush on the cheeks and lipstick; or a combination of both types.

Atsugesho Involved in Aging
Wrinkles in the face increase and skin is liable to become rough with aging, so makeup often gets heavier the older one gets in order to cover up these imperfections. However, symbolized by the phrase "toshima no atsugesho" (heavy makeup by a middle-aged woman), using such heavy makeup often gives an unfavorable impression.

Atsugesho Related to Medical Treatment
In order to conceal things like stains, bruises and scars, camouflage makeup is used to cover them with foundation, but this often leads to the impression of atsugesho. Every cosmetics manufacturer understands this issue, and are continually researching how to get as close as possible to the natural color and feel of skin.

Atsugesho Related to Occupations
A number of occupations require the use of atsugesho from a young age (sometimes from boyhood or girlhood). In particular, when young women with these types of occupations use makeup for everyday life, they tend to wear heavier makeup than women of the same age who work in other occupations.

Stage Makeup
Makeup often gets daringly heavy on the stage since it makes very little impression to the audience to appear with only light or no makeup.


Makeup in ballet is characterized by emphasizing the clear-cut features and stereoscopic effects of the face. There are some differences depending on the role, but in general, ballet dancers frequently put on foundation somewhat lighter than natural flesh color (considerably whitish in the case of Russian dancers) on their entire face, brownish blush and nose shadow, blue eye shadow covering the whole eyelid as well as a brown double line, boldly thick eyeliner on the upper and lower eyelids, they wear tipped eyelashes, and clearly paint the shape of the lips with brilliant-colored lipstick. Children, however, usually wear more simplified makeup. In cases such as the flamenco, the samba, hula dancing, and ballroom dancing, there is a tendency to use makeup that resembles what is used in ballet.

Contemporary Dance
Makeup used in modern dance, jazz dance, contemporary dance, etc. resembles that of the ballet but looks more realistic.

In Kabuki (Japanese traditional drama performed by male actors), makeup basically looks flat and emphasizes the beauty of style. For example, a Kabuki actor who plays the role of a young girl or young man in love will wash their face, rub bintsukeabura (hair oil) onto their whole face, cover their eyebrows with hard bintsukeabura, rub face powder paste on their chest, their neck and nape and then spread it with a sponge; then they rub face powder paste on their face and spread it with a sponge, put on red nose shadow, eye shadow, and blusher, apply crimson to the ends of their eyes, paint their eyebrows first with red and then with black, and paint the shape of their lips clearly with a bright red lipstick. Most actors usually do not use black eyeliner (except for Jakuemon NAKAMURA). An actor who plays the role of a brave man called an aragoto (a Kabuki play featuring exaggerated postures, makeup, and costumes) draws red or black lines called kumadori on their face to give the impression that he is brave. Actors who play the other roles wear basically the same makeup.

Kabuki Buyo
Although the makeup of Kabuki Buyo (Kabuki dance) is essentially the same as the aforementioned Kabuki, the dancers often put on thick black eyeliner and sometimes wear excessively tipped eyelashes during dance recitals.

Taishu Engeki
The makeup used in Taishu Engeki (popular drama) is also essentially the same as the aforementioned Kabuki, but there are many cases in which the actors do not use as much red for their eye makeup, putting on an uncommon amount of thick, black eyeliner, and paint only the outlines of their lips in red with the inside painted a cream color.

Buyo for Minyo, etc. The makeup used in Minyo Buyo (dances for local folk songs) takes the middle road compromising between the styles of Kabuki Buyo and ballet. The base makeup resembles the ballet and the point makeup resembles what is used in Kabuki Buyo. There are some cases in which blue eye shadow is used as well. Additionally, this style of makeup is often used when Kabuki Buyo is performed as a suodori (dancing without a costume or hairpiece) or as a hansu (semi-suodori) when natural hair is arranged without a wig. The makeup used in Ryukyu Buyo (Ryukyu dance) is similar as well, and the point makeup is nearly the same as that used in Kabuki Buyo. In Bugaku (traditional Japanese court music accompanied by dancing), while it is a rule to apply atsugesho only for Dobu (a dance performed by children) with sometimes no makeup at all, there are some groups which apply atsugesho on adults.

The makeup of Jidaigeki (period drama) is similar to Kabuki and Kabuki Buyo, but it is a little more realistic with the base being closer to natural skin color as well as eye makeup that is more modest. Even though makeup is even more realistic in movies and television dramas, there is a tendency to use thicker eyeliner and other makeup than what is used in Jidaigeki since it comes out on film and video.

Contemporary Drama
The makeup used in contemporary dramas varies depending on the role, and although it looks far more realistic than what is used in Jidaigeki, a consirable amount of atsugesho is generally applied when performances are on a stage.

Musicals etc. Although makeup used in musicals, Takarazuka Revue, etc. varies depending on the stage effects, atsugesho becomes more heavily applied as greater emphasis is placed on the stage effects. When the subject matter of a program is related to the West or modern times, makeup is generally similar to that of ballet, but when they are in Japanese style such as Jidaigeki, makeup seems to be closer to that of Kabuki Buyo or Taishu Engeki.

In Karyukai (the world of the geisha), geisha (Japanese professional female entertainers at drinking parties), yujo (a prostitute), etc. tradtionally put on atsugesho. While this kind of atsugesho does not look very good outdoors, it often harmonizes with the level of light created by candles indoors. Their makeup is basically the same as that of a girl acting in Kabuki, but differences include not covering the eyebrows, drawing them naturally, and putting on modest eye makeup. Unless they wear a Japanese coiffure, they do not use shironuri (white makeup), but they do apply a more considerable amount of atsugesho than women of the same age in other occupations.

Maiko and Geigi in Kyoto

A novice of maiko (apprentice geisha) does not use black eyeliner and they only put lipstick on their lower lip. Later on, maiko begin putting lipstick on the upper lip and use black eyeliner as well. Immediately before their erigae (promotion to a full-fledged geisha), maiko change their hairstyle into a sakko fashion (one of maiko's hairstyles) and apply ohaguro (black painted teeth). After being promoted to a geigi, they begin to draw distinct eyebrows and put on thicker eyeliners than when they were a maiko in order to look more mature.

Tayu in Shimabara
Tayu (geisha of the highest rank) wear almost the same makeup as a geigi and always apply ohaguro.

The Service Industry
In occupations such as employees in restaurants, department stores, hotels, Japanese-style inns, cabin attendants, race queens, and campaign girls, women are often required to wear atsugesho appropriate to the formality and atmosphere of their job.

Fashion Models
Fashion models always wear makeup that goes well with the latest clothes and accessories made by a designer and often end up putting on atsugesho as a natural result. In fashion magazines or books related to beauty treatment for children, a large proportion of girl models aged three to thirteen wear makeup, especially when they are modelling for wafuku (Japanese traditional clothes).

Enka Singers
Female enka (Japanese ballad) singers almost always wear atsugesho. Even those who are under thirty years old tend to wear heavier atsugesho than singers of the same age in other genres. Male enka singers tend to wear atsugesho as well when they dress in wafuku, such as thick eyeliner.

Mood Music, etc. Singers of mood music, shanson, Latin music, etc. show a tendency to wear makeup similar to enka singers as well. There are even some cases of male singers wearing makeup similar to that used by the women, such as Akihiro MIWA and Kenichi MIKAWA.

Rock Bands
Heavy Metal or visual artists often wear atsugesho in order to make an impact on their audiences. The band called Kiss of the United States of America is famous for their use of makeup. There are some bands whose members wear makeup resembling kumadori of Kabuki. People in the audience often imitate the bands when they go to performances as well.

Atsugesho is often used in sports where there is competition for artistic quality such as figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, athletic dance, etc..

Impersonation, Comical Performances, etc. In impersonation and comical performances, atsugesho is sometimes used to go along with planned content or to achieve an effect by the performer. A few examples of this are Korokke, (an entertainer) who gained popularity and increased the popularity of Kenichi MIKAWA by imitating MIKAWA and wearing similar makeup; Tayu KOUME has appeared with voluptuous makeup on, making use of her stage experience; Gori@Garage Sale has put on atsugesho and disguised himself as a woman to appear a Gorie MATSUURA, and so on.

Actors, singers and so on who generally do not wear atsugesho may occassionally use it to follow planned content or to achieve an effect desired by the performers themselves or by a producer when they appear in photographs, movies, special programs, or advertisements for cosmetics. Hideki TOGI, for example, who hardly ever puts on any makeup during his performances in gagaku (ancient Japanese court dance and music), appeared in a photo book wearing stage makeup similar to what is used in Kabuki Buyo, and Ayumi HAMASAKI, who already gives a strong impression of wearing atsugesho, puts on even heavier atsugesho in advertisements for digital cameras and other similar cases too numerous to mention.

Atsugesho in Festivals, etc. When participating in festivals, getting dressed up in haregi (the best clothes) or performing a recital of music or dance, even people who usually do not wear makeup often put on atsugesho. In particular, men, boys and girls who are normally highly likely to never wear makeup during their daily lives may often put on atsugesho at festivals.

Chigo (children of a festival) are the boys and girls onto whom divine spirits are believed to descend to, and in order to achieve images of the divine spirits they often put on atsugesho. The makeup of the chigo of Myogon-ji Temple (Toyokawa City) especially resemble what is seen in Kabuki Buyo. Since the bare skin of boys and girls is clean to begin with, they become surprisingly beautiful after only putting on lipstick, but even if they wear heavy atsugesho similar to elderly women, rather than giving the impression of toshima no atsugesho, they become even more beautiful.

Miko (shrine maidens) usually do not wear atsugesho, but when they dedicate mikomai (a female Shinto dance where young girls each carry a small baton with a bell) during festivals, they sometimes wear atsugesho for the same reason as chigo. In Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Nara City), makeup is characterized by clearly painting the shape of their faces white.

The dancers of Awa Odori (Awa Dancing Festival) and Yosakoi Matsuri (Yosakoi Festival) also generally wear atsugesho to harmonize with the beauty of their costumes. In Yosakai especially, numerous groups wear showy makeup to remind people of kumadori in Kabuki. In Himeshima Bon Odori (Himeshima Bon Festival Dance) (Himeshima Village, Oita Prefecture), although dancers wear makeup similar to Kabuki Buyo, they sometimes use blue eye shadow. In traditional performing arts all over the world (especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia) there is a tendency to wear atsugesho as well. Some groups of baton twirlers, cheerleaders, color guard teams, etc. also often wear atsugesho.

Amateur Kabuki
The makeup of amateur Kabuki is basically the same as the Kabuki described above, but because most of the performers are not accustomed to wearing makeup, their painted eyebrows and lipstick often get blurred, giving the impression of amateur Kabuki. In some regions, experts sometimes help them wear makeup, and in those cases the final conditions can be very sophisticated and beautiful.

Jidai Gyoretsu

In Jidai Gyoretsu (a procession of people in historical costumes) where they reproduce the manners of the Heian and Edo Periods, people wear gorgeous costumes and wigs, and to harmonize with their costumes they wear atsugesho similar to that of Kabuki Buyo and Minyo Buyo, even if it is held outdoors. In most cases, experts help the people wear makeup so that the final conditions are sophisticated and beautiful.

Haregi or Formal Clothing

When one is dressed up in Western clothes as a haregi, they usually wear light or no makeup, but when one is dressed up in Japanese traditional clothes, they put on heavier makeup than in Western clothes. Girls especially, who wear light or no makeup when wearing Western clothes, often wear atsugesho when they are in Japanese traditional clothes. Boys sometimes wear makeup excessively when they are wearing Japanese traditional clothes as well. In this case, a girl's makeup carries the meaning of the rite of passage, similar to a boy's fundoshi (loincloth).

As for recitals of various types of music, people often wear no makeup with Western music, but in Minyo or wagakki (a traditional Japanese musical instrument), they usually dress up in Japanese traditional clothes and sometimes wear atsugesho to harmonize with their clothes. In the case of Kabuki Buyo or Minyo Buyo, experts often help the performers wear their stage makeup and the final conditions can be very beautiful. In the case of the ballet, since parents or guardians help the performers wear makeup, the final conditions are often more uneven than when experts help them wear makeup.

Transformational Studio

Transformational studios (many are found in Kyoto City), such as maiko makeovers, jidaigeki, Takarazuka Revue, and so on, often provide the same costumes and wigs as actual maiko, geigi or actors depending on their roles, as well as assist in putting on atsugesho. Since the experts on makeup are always on standby in these studios, the final conditions of the makeup can be very beautiful.

Mainly in the Northern Kanto region, boys and girls who take part in dashi matsuri (float festival) as players of matsuri-bayashi (Japanese festival music), carriers of mikoshi (a portable shrine), and haulers of dashi (a float) often wear atsugesho (the same as with Hamamatsu Matsuri (Hamamatsu City)) (in the Southern Kanto region they usually do not wear makeup). In Western Japan, noriko (riding kids) of taiko-dai (floats to carry drums on) often wear atsugesho similar to chigo (in some regions, the makeup is similar to kumadori of Kabuki). Moreover, there are some cases in which men disguise themselves as women during festivals (drag festivals), in which case they always wear atsugesho. When young women get dressed up in Kosupure (cosplay; costume play to transform oneself into a favorite character) or Gosurori (Gothic Lolita) fashions in parks and on holidayds they often wear atsugesho.

[Original Japanese]