Cosmetics contestants demonstrate "saho" and "omotenashi"

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Kanebo Cosmetics held its 2010 tournament for Sensai Beauty consultants in Yokohama on Wednesday, with German contestant Bettina Hagel named as the cosmetics company's Sensai Beauty Master.

Despite never having visited Japan previously, the judges decided that Hagel gave the best demonstration of the traditional Japanese skills of "saho" and "omotenashi" during the day-long competition, during which all the contestants were required to perform a facial, apply make-up and give a hand massage to a customer, as well as giving a speech on a particularly memorable encounter with a customer.

Key parts of Kanebo Cosmetics' philosophy, both saho and omotenashi have their roots in the age-old Japanese tea ceremony.

Whereas saho emphasises the way in which the master performs the art with a series of smoothly performed functional acts, all of which are carried out in a strict order, omotenashi is all about the way in which the master treats his or her guest. Often simply translated as "hospitality," it is more of a blend of welcoming spirit with warmth, understanding and respect.

"It is all about the attention to the tiniest details," Dinah Imanari, a spokeswoman for Kanebo, told Relaxnews.

"It is very much like the tea ceremony in that there is a logic to the way in which things are done, it is not hurried and that has a soothing effect on the customer," she said. "It is very different from the way in which cosmetics are promoted in the West."

Beauty consultants at Japan's department stores or specialist cosmetics outlets are considered to be the best in the world, partly because Japanese consumers are the most demanding in the world but also because of the competitiveness of the market, the importance placed on customer service in all retail areas here and that fact that beauty consultants generally stay with one company throughout the working life and undergo constant training.

With competition growing at home - there are more than 1,000 cosmetics companies in Japan alone, with Shiseido the largest player, followed by Kanebo, Kose, Pola and Kao - companies are looking to overseas markets and adding new value to their brands.

The Sensai Beauty Advisors Tournament was started in 2006 to improve the skills of foreign consultants for the Sensai super-prestige brand of cosmetics.

Some 500 advisors entered the tournament, with six finalists invited to Japan for the final round of judging. The other contestants were Jelena Liaudiniene from Lithuania, Valgerdur Johannsdottir from Iceland, Susanna Corsini from Italy, Manuela Joos from Switzerland and Monika Marciniak from Great Britain.