Have you always dreamt to become a geisha, or at least look like one of these beautiful living dolls? Read how to make your trip to Japan special!
The beautiful and incredibly charming Geisha was the main cause of my falling in love and the consequent desire to visit Japan. A mythological female figure that I had only imagined, thanks to books and television. And even before planning the trip, I knew that I should definitely become a Geisha. It may seem a “thing for tourists” but I desperately wanted to have at least one fragment of that exotic beauty, discreet but powerful.
Kyoto, and Gion in particular, the historic district of the Geisha in Japan, at night turns into the entertainment area, and it is the only place where to bump into the fast walk of a genuine Maiko or Geisha, who is participating to an event somewhere. People spend a lot of yens to have the honor of having dinner with one of them.
Even during the day, Gion is magical, and although it is very popular among tourists, it is able to make you breathe the scent of the authentic Japan. The Higashiyama area is rich in shops and boutiques specialized in kimono rental service, both for him and her, or in Maiko– or Geiko-henshin (transformation into Maiko or Geisha).
Where to become a Geisha: Maiko Henshin Studio
I struggle to find reviews of other people who have made a transformation. I choose a reviewed shop, one of the few that have a website. The Maiko Henshin Studio Shiki offers various plans, for example:
- Studio Shoot Plan (includes professional photos in their studio and 10 min. time to take pictures outside with your own camera)
- Strolling Plan (in addition to the photo in studio, includes 45 min. time to walk around Gion. Prepare to be assaulted by tourists!)
- And for him: Samurai Plan (professional photos with katana included + 10 min. time for personal shots)
I book a Studio Shoot Plan for me and a Samurai Plan for Manuel. We will then discover that there is a cheaper plan for couples, not shown on the site. Ask the reception!
I’ll turn into Maiko, the apprentice who is educated to become a Geisha. This is the favorite subject for transformations because Maiko wear more colorful kimonos with long sleeves, and large ornaments in their hair, while Geisha are more austere.
The Geisha outfit and make up
They give me a light bathrobe to wear, and I leave the bag and jacket in the dressing room. I start from the make-up area: the make-up artist applies a base that cleans the skin, and then with brush and sponge, she spreads the white base on my face, neck and back. A bit of pink on the cheeks, black eyeliner, a touch of red on the eyes’ corners, and the liquid red lipstick.
Do not worry if you have little hair, because there is a trick: all Maiko have the wig! The price includes the Full Wig (too fake effect). I prefer to choose the Half Wig for a few yen more, for which the makeup artist uses my bangs, which integrates the front of the wig for a more natural effect.
It’s time to choose among the many kimonos and I go for the red one. A layer after another is tied around my waist with a band of tissue and then with the heavy obi, that I choose gold. The final touch is given by the flowers and the ornaments that are applied on the wig.
I’m terrified to look like a clown! I see the other girls with their the beautiful Asian features looking stunning after the transformation process, and I resign myself to my unfitting Western eyes.
But… Manuel, who was ready in his Samurai outfit and was waiting for me, gasps: “Gee, I can hardly recognize you!”
What a strange feeling to be called Maiko-san from the people!
A truly unique experience that get me close, even if only for a moment, to this beautiful and amazing figure, one of the symbols of the Japanese land. Wanna try and become a Geisha?
Here are useful websites where to live the transformation:
- Maiko Henshin Studio Shiki (nice experience, but a bit too hasty and “business-oriented”)
- Maica (recommended by Lonely Planet, various plans available)
Other recommended shops that also offer the kimono rental service: