Dive deeper into Japan
with Japan correspondent
Kjeld Duits
Home » Archives » August 2007 » Sayoko Yamaguchi 1950-2007

Sayoko Yamaguchi 1950-2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 Posted: 09:52 AM JST

Japanese supermodel Sayoko Yamaguchi died from acute pneumonia on August 14 it was announced yesterday. In the 1970s, at a time when light skinned occidentals ruled the runway, Yamaguchi used her very Asian looks to conquer the fashion world's top catwalks.

Sayoko YamaguchiYokohama born Sayoko Yamaguchi graduated from Sugino Gakuen, a fashion design school in Tokyo, and originally had no intention of becoming a fashion model. When she did become a model, she often thought of quitting because she didn't have a Western look.

One day, her mother cut her hair in the old style for young Japanese girls, a straight short bob with long straight bangs reaching close to the eyes. With her beautiful almond-shaped eyes, it made her look like a traditional Japanese doll. Armed with this new look she auditioned for Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ironically, she had made up her mind that this would be her last audition. If she couldn't get the job, she would quit modeling.

Yamaguchi cherished her bob and made it her trademark. Consequently, Westerners saw Yamaguchi as the dictionary definition of Oriental beauty.

Yamaguchi made her Paris debut in 1972 and regularly modeled for Japan's top designers like Kenzo Takada, Issei Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto. Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido used her in an ad campaign to promote make-up for Asian faces and to make Japanese women more comfortable with their own beauty.

Newsweek magazine named Yamaguchi as one of the top six models in the world in 1977. In 1984, she received a special prize at the Mainichi Fashion Awards.

In her later years, Yamaguchi performed on stage and in movies, and also designed stage costumes.

Yamaguchi said that the three most important elements of modeling were kimochi (feeling), katachi (style) and ugoki (movement). Unfortunately, her movement has now ceased, but her feeling and style will last forever.

Sayoko Yamaguchi

Keywords: national_news

*   *   *

2 comments so far post your own

1 | At 11:12am on Nov 01 2007, peter bainbridge wrote:
why more Asian models are not used is beyond me.! their stunning, very exotic, and have a great inspirational point of difference......Bainbridge
2 | At 11:23am on Nov 01 2007, Kjeld Duits wrote:
I totally agree. The Western concept of beauty has for too long ruled as a dictator. Even in Japanese fashion shows Western models were used almost exclusively until not too long ago. Yab Yum was one of the first brands to use Japanese modelswho were short, had virtually no breasts and flat bottom. But they looked beautiful in the Yab Yum designs. Instead of fitting the models to the clothes, it makes much more sense to fit the clothes to the models (and reall-life people!).
Subscribe to newsletter:
First name:
Daily:   Biweekly:

(Unsubscribe or Update)

We Recommend:


The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

Syndicate iKjeld news

Powered By Greymatter

© 2001~ iKjeld.com/Kjeld Duits. All rights reserved.
To publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material, please contact us.