I'm Shannon, originally from San Diego, California, but have been living in culture and coffee rich Kyoto, Japan for the past couple of years. I work at a small, local company that manages guesthouses and machiyas, or traditional Kyoto townhouses.
The first thing I do in the morning is feel around for my phone to check the time. This usually takes several minutes because a) I'm half blind without corrective lenses and b) I sleep on a futon on a tatami floor, which is quite nice in terms of sleep quality, but it means my phone, hair bands, bobby pins, and an assortment of other small objects gets lost in between the mattress, sheets, tatami mats, ether, etc. After having checked the time and ascertaining whether or not I need to rapidly roll (jumping out of bed is hard when you sleep on the floor) out of bed and rush out the door, I usually make coffee, then dutifully moisturize. It's the tail end of winter here, which means the air is unforgivably drying, so if I forget to moisturize my face will gradually flake off throughout the day, causing my co-workers all sorts of discomfort and disgust.
I don't have a strict night time ritual, but usually I slather my face in a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide formula to keep my breakout-prone skin in check. For the most part, it keeps my skin clear, as long as I remember to moisturize after, as benzoyl peroxide is, unsurprisingly, pretty drying. That coupled with the fact that I spend most of my day in rooms outfitted with heaters that blow hot, dry air at my poor, unsuspecting face means my skin gets flakier than Turkish baklava (but, sadly, not nearly as delicious) if I skip moisturizing.
My aforementioned 2.5% benzoyl peroxide formula is the only thing I have ever used consistently. I call it my industrial strength acne cream, because the packaging is pretty austere looking, and it doesn't have a particularly flowery name, but it's actually fairly gentle. It has been keeping my skin from getting too pubescent looking for the past three years or so now.
I have also been using Shiseido's Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner since I moved here. It was the first Japanese shampoo/conditioner I bought here, and I have never wanted to use anything else. I really only bought it for its ultra-sexy red bottles, but it gives my a hair a nice sheen, provided I've combed it out, or haven't just torn it out of a top-knot.
I'm not a diehard fan of my own face or anything, but if I were to choose a favorite facial feature, I would probably have to say my eyes. They're quite dark, so much so that you cannot tell where the irises begin and the pupils end. Growing up, I hated them. I thought they were the color of oblivion. The girls that I thought were beautiful had these crystalline, light-colored irises, and I was sitting over here with these dull, coal-colored eyes. When I moved to Japan, I noticed a lot of young women running around with these color contact lenses, and it bummed me out. Personally, I find it looks a bit unsettling, but more than that, it made me realize I had been measuring myself up according to white girl standards. I'm not a white girl, obviously. Japan has quite different standards of beauty, and suddenly I was being bombarded with images of women who looked more like me, rather than images of a bunch of white ladies occasionally ornamented by an Asian model shunted off to the side. In Japan, it's usually the opposite. It's all arbitrary, and I had wasted half my life putting a lot of stock in this onslaught of images women have to deal with from birth onward. So, now I love my eyes. They're dark and shaped like almonds, but most of all, they allow me to read, which has been a much better use of my time than staring at eyes in the mirror and bemoaning their blackness.
In terms of staying healthy, I generally keep away from meat, save for fish, and try to avoid things awash in sodium. I also bike everywhere. Kyoto is a bike-friendly city, so I spend a solid hour or more on my bike each day going to and from work, or just cruising around the city. When it's not blisteringly cold or humid enough to drown on the air, I run laps around Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site in my neighborhood that kind of turns into a local running track in the evening. Any sort of healthful progress I make, however, is usually obliterated by my not infrequent late nights out in Kyoto. My live-in boyfriend is a teacher and fairly serious practitioner of a native kind of zen yoga that involves meditation and these intimidating headstands, and I have been pressured to give it a chance. I'm making baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle, but I tend to find myself in Kyoto's slick little bars instead of doing asanas.
To be terribly honest, there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to my choosing beauty products. I will occasionally do brief internet research before investing in something say, over $40, but I don't like to spend too much on beauty products, largely because I rarely find one that I like enough to go out of my way to buy it again. I have probably used 28 different foundations in my life. The only thing I have found that does justice to both aspects of my skin is a finishing powder from m.i.u. It usually prevents over-the-top oiliness throughout most of the day, but doesn't make my dry skin looking glaringly obvious like a lot of powders do.
If I were to create the perfect beauty product for myself, it would be a foundation that could weather the changes my skin undergoes throughout the year. My skin has multiple personalities. The skin on my chin and around my mouth gets incredibly dry and flaky if I am in a room with an air conditioner for more than 30 minutes, but by mid-afternoon my T-zone is positively glistening. In the summer, my nose produces so much oil I get paranoid that the U.S. will try to invade it to look for WMDs or something. Yet somehow, the rest of my face is dying for moisturizer. My skin is like the American political landscape. It's highly polarized, which means I always have to use two different foundations -- one for oily skin, and one for dry skin. "Combination" skin doesn't even begin to describe it. That word is suggestive of harmony. There is no harmony here, just dermatological discord.
My nationality is American, but ethnically speaking I am of Japanese and Irish ancestry. Neither of my parents are foreign nationals, however, so I found my ethnicity to be of little consequence for a long time. People often get confused when they hear I am half-Japanese. I know quite a few people who are half-Japanese and half-American in terms of parent nationality, but I am not half-American. I was born and raised in the U.S., as evidenced by my love of carbohydrates and droning California accent (so I've been told), but growing up other Americans would ask me what country I was from, or if I had been adopted because I have a Western sounding surname. Americans get obsessed with it. They absolutely have to know what kind of Asian you are, even if you spent all your life in Michigan and can only speak English. I love meeting Americans in Japan, because after the obligatory "where are you from" exchange, they practically burst at the seams because they're dying to know what "type" of Asian you are, but are under the impression it's a bit rude to ask. I have always found that a person's accent and hometown tells me a lot more about them than their skin color or face shape, so I've never felt terribly compelled to ask what kind of black, white, or Latino they were. A lot of Americans have a funny kind of compulsive ethnic sorting they like to do.