The japanese have long been captivated by the invisible but obvious power that exists in natural creation. And, this spiritual connection creates a sense of caring and respect towards nature. The Shiseido Future Solution LX is based on the concept of living, energetic beauty which harnesses nature’s vital forces and merges it with technology. Azby Brown, a New Orleans native is an architect, artist and author living in Japan. Well-versed on the subject, he was invited by Shiseido to give us a rudimentary lesson on Shinto and Buddhism; we were fortunate to visit the Ise Shrine where we observed the Shinto tradition in practice. We find out what his thoughts are on beauty and how to lead a productive, happy life.
What made you fall in love with the Japanese culture?
I first became fascinated with Japan while I was in university. After graduating, I became a professor and started writing books, both about the traditional aspects of Japan as well as contemporary Japan. I’ve been here a little over 30 years, so Japan is really my adopted home, and I’d like to give back what I feel the culture, the country, and the people have given to me.
Do you see something in common between all these Japanese beauty brands?
I have to admit, beauty is not a world that I’ve really been a part of. I know it mainly because of my wife, and she’s like many Japanese— she takes really good care of herself, washing very carefully every night, and I see what she uses, so I noticed the Japanese brands. Shiseido, of course, is one of them. So I guess the commonality I see is a certain kind of sophistication that they try to convey in the imagery and the packaging—something that’s soothing, subtle and sophisticated.
Do you think it comes from their roots of embracing nature?
I think it’s all connected with that; I think it’s also connected to the idea of what it means to be beautiful. What is beauty? And that beauty, it has to be innate. Beauty is not something that you stick on your face, it’s something that comes from inside you. If you’re not healthy, you’re not taking care of yourself, not getting good rest, for instance, then you’ll never really be beautiful, so I feel that’s very connected.
Have you tried Shiseido products yourself and which one is your favourite?
Truth is, I haven’t, but I will say, I’m really impressed by what I’ve seen with the Future Solution LX. My wife started to use it when I got involved with this project. She found the packaging beautiful, and said to me, the next morning she woke up, ‘This stuff really is good!’ She looks young, she has good skin, she takes care of it, all the time, but she thought it was great. And she’s a very picky person, so this is probably very good, from her point of view.
Over the years how has Japanese philosophy changed your personal life?
I find I’ve become a lot more patient, and this started with that temple carpenter [whom he apprenticed for], where I had to wait three days before he would meet me. I went every day and waited outside, and then he finally talked to me, and I feel I’ve become very patient, and that is part of being comfortable, having a kind of inner peace, and not being so worried.
With the young people coming out into the world, what advice can you give them?
I would like to advise them not to be in such a hurry. And I see that with my own son; he’s 21, he thinks he has to be successful immediately, whereas I know life just goes on and on, therefore people should take their time. I also would advise young people to trust others; even though we see lots of bad things happening, the only good things happen is when we trust people and establish that understanding and sharing. So that will be the two big ones—not hurry and to trust.
QUIET CONFIDENCE If there’s any lesson that Azby Brown has learned from his Japanese master, it is to be patient