World's oldest beauty adviser sitting pretty

21 Nov 2023 06:00pm

FUKUSHIMA - Tomoko Horino's neighbours gossiped when she first went out to work in patriarchal 1960s Japan, but now, at age 100, the world's oldest beauty adviser is having the last laugh.

"It was a time when married women stayed home and only did housekeeping, but I had to work," Horino told AFP after officially being crowned by Guinness World Records.

Others in the eastern town of Fukushima saw her leaving the house in full make-up and thought she was working in a hostess bar.

"What kind of a bar hostess leaves as the sun rises and comes home as the sun sets?" she laughed.

Born in 1923, the same year as Japan's Great Kanto Earthquake, Horino married a local government official and expected to be a housewife.

"It was a mistake to be married to my husband," she said, recalling the man she lived with until his death 16 years ago.

"He grew up in a very wealthy family and didn't care about spending money," she said. "He would take his colleagues out for wining and dining on the day he got his salary and use it all up." To make ends meet while raising their three children, Horino would work on the side assembling gift boxes.

At 39, she started working for the cosmetics company Pola, going door to door in high heels -- a style choice she kept up for 41 years -- selling facial lotions and make-up while giving beauty pointers to clients.

"When my husband was making a salary of 10,000 yen, I was making three times more. I worked very hard," she said.

- Top performer -

According to Pola, Horino's total revenue has amounted to more than 125 million yen ($835,000), and she still nails her sales goals.

Women's participation in the world's third-biggest economy has grown significantly in recent years.

But the gender pay gap remains one of the largest among rich economies, and men still dominate politics, business and academia.

Japan is also one of the most rapidly ageing countries in the world, with some 90,000 people over 100 and the average life expectancy for women projected to hit 90 by 2050.

With the normal working-age population shrinking, older people are being encouraged to work to fill gaps in the labour market.

Pola has nearly 250 beauty advisers aged 80 or more, including four centenarians.

But the firm nominated Horino to Guinness "because she remains the most active in communicating with clients and participating in training sessions for new products", company spokesperson Aya Katsuda told AFP.

"She is wonderful." - Baseball banter - Horino has her own strict routine for keeping wrinkles at bay.

Every night she takes a bath, stretches her limbs and shoulders in the hot tub, and cleanses her face by splashing it 20 times.

This is followed by an array of lotions, two kinds of wrinkle fillers, beauty serum, milky lotion and cream.

"I wear my make-up every day," she added.

And to ensure that her banter remains in top form, Horino watches the news every night, including the sports segments.

"I need to keep up with a wide range of subjects. I need to know about baseball so I can talk about it with a person who loves baseball," she said.

- 'Big sister' -

Most recently, she visited the house of 75-year-old client Yuriko Abe and recommended a sunscreen lotion to wear while gardening.

"It's always wonderful to see her being so well," Abe said, describing her beauty adviser as a "big sister".

But it gets harder and harder for Horino to keep her clients, no matter how hard she works.

"Many of my good clients have passed away around the age of 80," she said.

"I will continue working as long as my life goes," she said, adding she still gets a kick from helping people "get beautiful and become happier".

But beauty isn't everything, and nowadays women going to work isn't quite as out of the ordinary as it was when Horino was starting out.

"Women used to be only given an assisting position under men," she said. "Now women can even become a president.

"The world has become a much better place now." - AFP