Art, community, and care at Kanebo Cosmetics Education Center

An iconic stained glass roof window at the Kanebo Cosmetics Education Center featured rings symbolizing the sun and human harmony, reflecting Kanebo’s wish to grow together through education, communication, and mutual aspiration.

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In 1963, Kanebo opened its education centers in Kawasaki and Kobe as part of its business diversification efforts, which started in 1961. We were looking to grow our cosmetic business and needed to develop human resources to make that happen. Later in 1976, the Kanebo Cosmetics Education Center was established as a place where beauty counselors and other employees across the country, as well as retail partners and staff, could gain and polish their skills. Overlooking Yokohama port, the idyllic location surrounded by greenery symbolized Kanebo’s belief in taking good care of our employees. Designed to embrace both tradition and change, the education center featured fired bricks imported from the UK and large windows signifying bright, new prospects. The furniture and fittings within the premises cultivated an environment conducive to learning and growth for the trainees.

A large, relaxing lounge at the building’s entrance became a gathering place for employees across the country where they could reunite or get to know each other in a peaceful atmosphere. The lounge’s designers chose the color purple for the carpet to represent grapes picked during a rich harvest, illustrating our hope to nurture a rewarding, fulfilling education. Sofas were placed side by side rather than facing each other to encourage friendlier and more relaxed conversations. A relief sculpture divided the kitchen and dining room and featured rice plants with fully-grown grains to portray fruitful training and education.

Works of art from famous artists were placed all around the complex, including the large, center-piece painting hung across from the entrance by renowned Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) artist Kaii Higashiyama, whom we had the honor of inviting to the unveiling ceremony.

A 1974 work, Boshi Ritsuzo, Kibo (Hat, Hope), by leading Japanese sculptor Churyo Sato (1912—2011) was displayed in a corner of the lounge as if the woman was looking out to a distant ocean from the hill in Yokohama. The sculpture signaled to everyone involved with Kanebo Cosmetics to retain hope.

Ink calligraphy of Japanese syllabary by Toko Shinoda could be seen in every room of the trainee accommodations to encourage them to ”go back to the basics (as in the foundational elements of the ABCs) when in doubt.” The 107-year-old calligraphy artist continues to work today.

To inspire trainees with the comfort and luxury of a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), most of the rooms had tatami (straw) mat flooring. They could venture outside to experience a Japanese tea room, a Japanese garden, and the hospitality spirit of Japan. Here, the area incorporated spiritual values unique to Japan, such as wabi-sabi (the acceptance of transience and imperfection), Saho (customs, actions, and etiquette to keep order and consistency), and Omotenashi (hospitality). Japanese landscaper and architect Sentaro Iwaki, who designed the Japanese gardens of Akasaka Palace (Japan’s State Guest House) and Hotel New Otani, designed and built the education center’s garden. Iwaki was 80 years old at the time, and he imbued his philosophies and beliefs into every stone of the garden. We’ve heard that the garden at the Kanebo Cosmetics Education Center was his favorite among all the others.

These authentic art pieces nurtured an artistic, meditative, and thoughtful sensibility in everyone involved with the center.

The education center closed its doors in 2013, but its spirit lives on in the knowledge and skills gained by our employees and retail partners who continue to drive Kanebo’s customer services. It lives on in all the people who came to the center to learn and grow. To this day, we see their genuine desire to understand and embrace customers’ feelings and sensibilities in a manner consistent with the educational outlook inspired by the center.

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