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Meet our Japanese
Brand Ambassadors

Momoko & Sakura Ando

INTERVIEW

Momoko & Sakura Ando

When we decided to select brand ambassadors for KohGenDo, we were met with a unique challenge. We needed to find an exceptional person who embodied our company’s mission of “pursuing beauty that transcends skin quality, age, and national borders.” Lucky for us, we found not one but two ambassadors that perfectly personify the individuality and inspiration behind KohGenDo.

As a film director, essayist, and novelist, Momoko Ando creates narratives enriched with atmospheric beauty and a unique sensitivity. Her sister, Sakura Ando, has won numerous awards for her work as an actress, being hailed one of Japan’s most respected stars. While the sisters have long been fans and customers of the brand, this year they become official members of the KohGenDo family. To welcome them and introduce them to our international community of fans, we sat down with the sisters for an intimate, behind-the-scenes conversation.

Tell us about how you first discovered KohGenDo—it seems like your family has used it for some time.

Momoko: Yes! When I was little, my father would say, “When your skin is trouble, go to KohGenDo.” As a child, I didn’t understand that he was talking about a brand, so for a long time I thought that KohGenDo was an amazing place in Azabu-Juban! In junior high, I finally learned what he really meant when my mother and I visited the KohGenDo salon together.

Sakura: The first makeup I ever used was KohGenDo. When I was in junior high, I had a photoshoot with my mother. I had never worn makeup before. My mother was worried about how my sensitive skin would react, so she gave the artist KohGenDo foundation and said, “If you use this, she’ll be fine.”

Momoko: When I studied abroad during my first year of high school, my mom made me a care package that included KohGenDo lotion. Since I had sensitive skin, she was concerned that the cosmetics products overseas would give me a reaction.

Sakura: My second encounter with KohGenDo was in 2008, when I was filming “A Crowd of Three*,” I loved the foundation that the makeup artist was using. The makeup artist showed it to me and said, “This is KohGenDo’s new foundation.” It was Aqua Foundation! Since it blends so well, it feels like your skin is bare even though you’re wearing makeup. It creates the effect of natural skin, which is so important when you’re filming with modern cameras. It has made it possible to capture a natural, makeup-free look on film.

Momoko: These are cosmetic products that have been close to our hearts for a really long time. For those of us in the movie business, you could say they’re like our saving grace.

*”A Crowd of Three”, released in 2010.

When we had you two on set for our photoshoot, we could really feel the purity and depth of your connection as sisters. Tell us about your experience being on set together in a traditional Japanese home.

Momoko: The weather was so good while we were filming; it was like being wrapped in sparkling light! For me, the experience brought back a lot of memories of my childhood. As an older sister, I always worry about my little sister and meddle in her life. During the shoot, we got caught up in each other, spinning around like a kaleidoscope.

Sakura: Without even thinking about it, we were joined at the hip while filming and it was totally like we were little kids again. Honestly, it was like I suddenly woke up from a dream. (laughs)

Momoko: Sakura and I have always been close since we were little. I love and treasure my little sister. She means the world to me and I can’t help it if I worry about her. From the time Sakura was born when I was four, I had this strange fixation, like “She’s my little sister!” (laughing) and I saw her as my own personal muse. We were a few years apart, so we’d get out of school at different times, but we forced ourselves to walk home together.

Sakura: When she went to junior high school, Momoko was like, “Who are you going to walk home with? Do you have friend picked out?” (laughing)

Momoko: I was so happy to walk home with Sakura. I probably asked her about who she was going to walk home with because I felt lost without her rather than worried about her. Even today I’m grateful that Sakura has taught me the true meaning of strength. It’s like that saying, “When standing on the brink of absolute death, a mother will jump off before her child.” Whatever happens, I try to be strong for Sakura’s sake. Even though I’m actually a total wimp.

Momoko, your affection for your sister is incredible. Where do you think that deep sisterly bond came from?

Sakura: I think our family really shaped our relationship as sisters. Our family was made up of our grandmother, our father, our mother and us. I think it was this sense of distance within our family that strengthened our relationship as sisters.

Momoko: Yeah, probably. Our mother is the type of person who doesn’t judge others. She would never say, “Oh, so-and-so is like that because he’s this kind of a person.” She accepts everyone for who they are without prejudice. She’s tolerant to the point where you’re like, “How can you be like that?”

Sakura: People tend to think that the reason why we are in the film industry is because our father is an actor, but it may be seeing the generosity of our mom growing up that was the biggest influence.

Currently, you two work as a director and an actress. You are both married with your own families. Has your relationship as sisters changed from when you were children?

Sakura: I don’t think so. Sometimes I have a moment where I think that maybe my sister and I will drift apart, but then I bounce right back. I don’t mean drifting apart in terms of distance or time, but in terms of intuition or connection. Sometimes I get this nervous feeling that my sister will just drift away from me, but then, I immediately think, “No! You’re just imagining things! You’re wrong! You’re wrong! Wake up!”

Momoko: Yeah, it’s a really abstract feeling. (gesturing with her hands) If you were to express it in an animated cartoon, it would be like 2 orbs of light floating like the sun. It’s like the image of the source of life that exists in everything. Our sisterhood is there, softly floating, playfully. But then, sometimes I’ll suddenly feel like I want to break away on my own, like, “See you later!” and Sakura will be like, “You’re wrong! You’re headed for the danger zone!” and pull me back in.

Sakura: Having Momoko has created this great sense of security and I think that I can live my life freely because of that. The affection I get from her is the foundation that allows me to be my true self.

On a different note, I want to ask the both of you, because you are active in the Japanese film industry, are you aware of "Japan" in your work and everyday life?

Sakura: More recently—I don’t know whether it’s my age or the times—my awareness of being “born in Japan” has become very strong. If I consciously think about why I feel this way, it has to be because of the interconnection with the cultural climate and ideology of Japan. So now I am starting to enjoy taking more of an interest in understanding Japan.

Momoko: Recently, as the world has become unstable, I feel like in many countries, the individual nature of that country is becoming more apparent. When I think about replacing the relationship between countries with a relationship between individuals, I think it is always better to speak your own plain truth. That’s why I think it’s important that we are both consciously aware of being Japanese but also that we recognize ourselves as individuals.

Maybe it’s time we all reconfirmed our own identities. In a changing world, I am currently thinking about what it means to be “Japanese”. To say a person is “Japanese” is to take into account the cultures and ethnicities that combined over the course of our history that has resulted in what we now consider to be the country of Japan. We are all in this world, and in this universe together, so if each of us are happy, we are all happy, right? I wonder if that’s the key to world peace.

Momoko, you studied abroad. Do you think your view of Japan is influenced from having seen it from the outside?

Momoko: When I was studying abroad, I thought that having a global perspective meant having a solid individual identity. In films, in anything, it’s important to establish an identity to compete within this world. I treasure the Japan that’s inside of me.

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