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    book reviews

The Life of a Geisha
by Eleanor Underwood


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Editorial: You Put WHAT on your face?

Uguisu no Fun : Nightingale Droppings
Traditional Japanese Beauty Secrets


My voyage down the road of traditional Japanese beauty products was thrown upon me quite unexpectedly. Returning to work from a lovely lunch of steaming hot soba noodles from a local Japanese restaurant (I highly recommend Sushi-1, off US1 next time you are in downtown Fort Lauderdale), I was presented with a package that arrived whilst I was absent from the office. I was rather confused as I wasn’t expecting anything so I examined the package carefully before opening, and noted it came with a shipment label marked with Chidoriya World. With a squeal and a sneaking suspicion of who was responsible for the package, I tore the box open to have my suspicions confirmed. A special big thank you to my lovely friend, Koumitsu, who knows me well enough to know I’d be thrilled with a gift of birdy do-do. To give her extra credit though, she did sweeten the deal with some delicious smelling azuki and brown sugar soap which smells good enough to eat!

After doubling over in juvenile giggles about receiving birdy poop in the mail and racing around the office grossing my workmates out, I sobered up enough to remember that it really is an age old beauty secret passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. I also acknowledge the fact that if it is still being used today, it must really work. So, my giggles dissolved into minor chuckles of respect as I contemplated my bottle of Uguisu no Fun.

Now, during the course of my researching of geiko and maiko – I’ve come across numerous mentions of Uguisu no Fun, or, for those who really wish to be in the know, Nightingale Droppings (Uguisu no Fun sounds better, right?). I’ve always (secretly) wondered whether it worked or not.

Uguisu no Fun even has a special mention in one of my books “The Japanese Way of Beauty” by Michelle Dominique Leigh, which contains the recipe and full instructions for use, along with a very special note at the end of the recipe mentioning it had been included in the book as it is one of the most respected traditional Japanese recipes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the tradition intriguing.

As I went to bed on Friday night, after grueling workout from my taiko class, I slowly talked myself to sleep, convincing myself that in the name of research I should use Uguisu no Fun on Saturday morning in a trial run on whether it would work or not. I mean, if worse comes to worse and nothing noticeable happens at least I can keep people in awe and say I at least gave it a go, right? Thinking back about it now, I suspect that may have been the reason for why I did the highly unusual thing of sleeping in until almost noon on Saturday morning in an effort to delay.

When I used to live back home in Brisbane, Australia – I was a regular little make-up fiend. I’d wear it every single day and amazingly enough, my skin would still be in rather nice condition despite the copious amount caked on. Since I moved to South Florida 4 years ago, I have had to shift to rarely wearing any largely due to the fact that the heat and humidity wreaks havoc upon my skin and I feel like an oil slick very early on in the day.

Even if I am not wearing make-up, I still have trouble with my skin being overly enthusiastic in producing oils. After having a good hard think about it though – I realized that perhaps in addition to the heat and humidity, I am unintentionally causing these problems to be worse with the current beauty products I am using. Every morning, after I wash my face – I run a cotton ball over it with toner, to deep clean my skin. Afterwards, my skin feels so squeaky clean, it feels as though I’ve had five face lifts and the surfaces is more reflective than a freshly waxed sports car. I’m sure it isn’t really a good thing…as it is likely the fact the toner is drying my skin out could be the very reason I am having such drama with my oil glands in an effort to over compensate for what I’ve just removed. Tsk tsk to me.

This line of thinking also prompted me to think about nature…that perhaps, going back to more natural based beauty products is important than using man made chemicals. I obviously feel a difference with my body when I’ve been eating nice, healthy, natural foods in comparison to nasty, mass produced, chemical/preservative filled junk food – why should beauty products and make-up be any different? Also, as my ever so tactful assistant told me at work, manure makes the flowers grow more beautiful and radiant than chemical fertilizers.

As you can tell – I well and truly pep talked myself into finding justifiable reasons to use Uguisu no Fun. All I had to do was force myself out of bed.

After I finally crawled out of bed after all of the above contemplating, I took my shower. The previous night, I had done a touch of researching over the ‘net in relation to product usage. I noticed on numerous spa websites, they instructed that the face should be exfoliated first – as it sloughs away the dead skin, and leaves the pores wide open to accept the beauty treatment. Charming. So, like all good little researchers should do, I exfoliated my face.

After my shower – I very carefully pulled all my hair back off my face, and stared at myself in the mirror. My partner, who was highly amused by the entire situation, couldn’t help but sit in the bathroom staring at me with sick fascination which bordered upon horror when he realized I was dead serious with the deed I was about to do. Taking a deep breath, I picked up the bottle of Uguisu no Fun and smiled at how cute and quaint it looked. A pretty little white bottle with pink and white ume patterns all over it. I’m sure many know already, but just incase: ume is my favourite Japanese pattern and flower. Seeing ume patterns always makes me happy. With an ume induced smile on my face, I took a sniff at the powder. Oh dear.

I’m not quite sure how to describe the smell of Uguisu no Fun other than to say it has a very deep musky smell to it. It doesn’t smell like, well, poop, to be crass…but, it certainly doesn’t have the sweet smell of ume to it either. Then again, I reminded myself, there are many other beauty products that people use out there that smell far worse than this. Honestly, I think it was more a psychological “urgh” than a physical one considering what the base product is (the 100% base product, mind you).

I very carefully read the directions for use, as I certainly didn’t intend on any accidents due to misuse and according to the instructions, you are mix ½ teaspoon of the dried Uguisu no Fun with a few drops of warm water in the palm of your hand to form a paste. You then massage the paste into your skin using small circular motions – keeping well clear away from your eyes. So, I did just that - I put ½ teaspoon of the powder in my palm, mixed it with water, took a deep breath, and to the sounds of the “eeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww!” coming from the direction of my partner, I started massaging Uguisu no Fun into my face in small circular motions with a hint of a small, nervous smile of disbelief that I was even doing this in the first place.

Once the water is added to Uguisu no Fun – the musky smell became much stronger and I realized the instructions should have mentioned staying as far away from the nostrils as well as the eye area just to be on the safe side. “In the name of research” I chanted silently to myself as I massaged. Once I was done, I stared at myself in the mirror. Wow. There I was staring back with a very organic mask on my face. All of a sudden, I felt terribly empowered and the childish, playground taunts from my partner faded into the background when the realization of how brave I was hit me.

After that glorious split second realization of bravery, I was el pronto to the wash basin and rinsed my mask off. Then, I rinsed a bit more. Then, again I rinsed, rinsed and rinsed just to be on the safe side that it was all removed. I looked at my face and then promptly rinsed it off on last time just to be doubly sure. I mean, I wasn’t really keen on the idea of walking around with dried “beauty” product on my face that I forgot to rinse off properly. At last, I was satisfied and patted my face dry and stared in the mirror. My verdict?

I was rather pleasantly surprised.

My skin felt very clean and not at all oily. It felt slightly moist, the way it should feel – naturally. It certainly didn’t feel dryer than the Sahara desert, unlike how the toner and other beauty product tends to leave it. It also didn’t irritate my skin at all, so I had no red splotches or unsightly marks. My skin also felt nice and smooth to the touch.

I must admit, it DID leave a faint smell that lingered for about 15-20 minutes after use, which was confirmed multiple times by my partner sniffing my cheeks and going “yup, you smell”. Thanks, honey. Application of moisturizer or make-up would easily help the smell disappear though, however, I do think this is an procedure best left for night time before going to bed so you don't have to worry about the smell bothering anyone else except your loved one, cat, or dog, which ever your case may be.

By late afternoon, I was very impressed. Amazingly enough, my face was not the usual oil slick with lines of workers waiting to set up rigs, but rather, it still felt the same as it did in the morning – soft, slightly moist…but not excessively oily. It felt as though I had put an application of high quality moisturizer. I would say it felt nice, natural and rather refreshing.

I did realize after the entire application – the book about traditional Japanese beauty mentions the mask can be left on up to 20 minutes – the longer the better in relation to it working its magic. I didn’t realize this, and for my first application I only left it on for around a minute. I’m brave, yes…but not THAT brave! It also mentions to use the application once or twice a week. I think that I may continue this experiment over the course of the next month in the name of research and apply another application later this week and leave it on longer and so forth. Who knows, perhaps, I’ll have the best looking skin in South Florida, and people will wonder why I have a bemused grin when asked what my secret is.

Oh, and you want to know what true love is? Your partner kissing you on the cheek after you’ve finished with your application of Uguisu no Fun, even though you apparently smell.

I’ll be sure to update with how my new beauty treatment is working.

So, now you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who has tried Uguisu no Fun and you feel safe saying you want to try it too, but you wonder where you can get your hands on this eccentric treatment? Check out the below information for all your Uguisu no Fun needs!

General information about Uguisu no Fun from: “The Japanese Way of Beauty” by Michelle Dominique Leigh

  • It cleanses, lightens, nourishes, tones, smoothes, moisturizes and exfoliates.
  • Not suitable for sensitive or allergy-prone skin.
  • Suitable for aging, oily, blemished or rough skin or for those looking to clear their complexion

Directions for use:
Mix ½ teaspoon and a few drops of water to make a paste. Massage in circular motions on face and leave on for up to 20 minutes as a facial mask. Rinse off thoroughly. Apply once or twice a week, as needed.

Where to purchase from:
Chidoriya World (where mine came from):
Uguisu no Fun

Hannari-ya
Uguisu no Fun


Important Note: The above editorial is not an endorsement for this product – it is my personal experience and thoughts in the use of it. Being the type of person I am, I like to have hands on experience in relation to what I research, and the testing of Uguisu no Fun is just a natural progression of my thirst for knowledge. The more I know and learn about something, the better I can write about it, at least, I hope.

Obviously, as with any alternative beauty treatment (or any regular beauty treatment, for that matter), please use common sense if you chose to experiment with this particular product. Those who suffer from sensitive skin should avoid this product, along with those who suffer frequent allergies – especially from birds. Immortal Geisha will not be held responsible for any adverse reactions people may experience from trying this product.

Also - please keep in mind that it is a specific type of "fun" that is used for this product - so any old "fun" from the bottom of your bird cage, top of your car, or from your local pigeon colony just won't cut it!