Inside the monastery, Tokyo native Kodo Nishimura lives a humble life as a traditional Buddhist monk. Outside, he spends his time traveling between Tokyo and New York working as a renowned makeup artist. Culture Trip went to learn more about Japan’s first and only Buddhist monk / makeup artist to the stars.
Immaculately made-up, sporting smoky eyeshadow, false lashes and winged eyeliner, he changes outfits three times during a presentation to starry-eyed fans.
Nishimura is primarily a make-up artist, beautifying clients ranging from popstars to pageant contestants.
He spends most of the year in the United States, where he first openly indulged a passion for make-up that he kept secret as a child in Japan, hiding in the bathroom to experiment.
“I would open my mum’s Chanel eyeshadow palette and I would try to put it on my face. But I looked crazy, I looked like a clown,” he laughs.
Studying in the US, he found things were different. He discovered drag queens working at make-up stores who were happy to answer his questions. At 18, he made his first purchase: mascara and eyeliner.
An internship with a make-up artist led to a job. Back home, his parents surprised him by being supportive of his career choice.
But he felt that something was missing. He had grown up in a Buddhist temple, playing behind its elaborate golden altar and knew one day he would have to decide whether to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I wanted to know the occupation, what we do, enough to make the decision.”
So at 24, he enrolled in a training programme in his Buddhist Pure Land sect. It involved five sessions, each several weeks long, spread over a period of around two years.
Homesick for Japan, he was excited at first, but his enthusiasm quickly faded.
“The moment the doors shut, the trainers started screaming,” he said. “I was like ‘oh my God, what did I sign up for’?”
But he persevered, returning to the United States between courses, only to have a crisis of confidence near the end.
In New York, he wore make-up and jewellery, worked as a make-up artist and was open about his attraction to men.
Would all that “offend the community of Buddhist monks?” he wondered.
“Is it going to degrade the value of other monks?”
But a senior monk brushed aside his concerns, pointing out that Japanese monks often wear non-religious clothing outside the temple and have second jobs. And he was uninterested in his sexuality.
“That was like a liberation for me,” Nishimura said. “That’s when I felt: ‘now I can be myself and be a monk as well.'”
As if he hasn’t won our hearts already, he also came out as LGBTQ in a big and public way – by featuring in a photo shoot for Out in Japan, a visual project that aims to shine the spotlight on Japan’s sexual minorities.
Watch The Beautiful Pictures of Monk
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Happy Halloween!Mexican Jewelries Inspired by Indigenous prince! Love the detailed beads work 😭💓🇲🇽 Ultra HD lip booster in Cinema @makeupforeverjp is amazing to just boost the color of my natural lips! I love the rosy tint, looks juicy and natural. #mua #makeupforever #makeupartist #halloween #mexican #beat #lashes #smokeyeyes #monk
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I appeared as a guest speaker at Taisho University. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to share my experiences and stories. I talked about values I learned from outside Japan, why I started doing makeup and LGBTQ understanding. Thank you all who came to see me today. 大正大学でのゲストスピーカー、おかげさまで無事に終わりました。 国際教養学部の先生方、学生さん、また私を応援してくださるたくさんの皆様にお越しいただきました。このような機会をいただけて本当に嬉しいです。 たくさんのご質問もいただきました。私に興味を持っていただき嬉しかったです。ありがとうございました。 #大正大学 #国際教養学部 #メイクアップアーティスト #お化粧 #メーク #メイク #makeup #mua #makeupartist #monk #buddhist
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