In June of 2009, a friend of mine came to visit. During her stay, we took a day trip with a couple of my friends to Kyoto. We were lucky to have some beautiful weather, and spent the day visiting the a few of the most famous tourist spots in Kyoto.
Before we took off to see the sights, we stopped at a little shop where you can get made over to look like a maiko (舞妓), or an apprentice geisha.
I guess technically we were all too old to be maiko, but it was a really fun experience.
Just a little information about maiko, and then we’ll get on to the story and photos. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, so as Wikipedia says:
Apprentice geisha are called maiko (舞子 or 舞妓), literally “dance child” or hangyoku (半玉), “half-jewel” (meaning that they are paid half of the wage of a full geisha), or by the more generic term o-shaku (御酌), literally “one who pours (alcohol)”.
After we filled out the registration forms, we took off our makeup and changed into the robes provided. I’m not going to lie, it is not an attractive photo, and I look like a total giant. I’m not, really. My friends are short!
From there until we were fully dressed, we weren’t allowed to take photos. Basically, they sat us each in a makeup chair with a makeup artist. After making sure our hair was pulled back and netted, they started to apply the white foundation. It was really, really cold, and quite thick. They did our eyes and eyebrows next, and finished with the red lip.
Next was the wig. Oh, the wigs. I had to go through a good number of trying on different wigs, because apparently, my head is tiny. Eventually they gave up, and shoved a towel in the back of one so it fit without moving too much. The wig comes complete with the 簪 [kanzashi] (hair ornaments) already in place.
We also got to choose our kimonos from a large rack of them. There were so many, that it made choosing really difficult. I ended up going with this green one, because I felt that it looked fresh and happy.
Once we were ready, we went to do a professional photo shoot. They gave us different objects to shoot with, which was really cool. The kimono was very hot, both the clothes and wig were really heavy. It gets especially hot where the obi sits.
They gave the photos to us on CD, as well as printed one out. These are my shots:
We were also able to take photos together in a Japanese styled room, with our own camera (for something like 20 minutes).
Afterwards, we went back into the change rooms to clean up and get ready to explore Kyoto! Of course, we all looked totally awesome with our makeup, hair down, and robes on.
It was a really fun experience, and something I had never really thought of doing. I think normally it can be pretty expensive, but we went during a time when they had a discount, so it was only 5000 yen each.
All in all, I’d say that if you get a chance to do it, take it! You feel like a totally different person with everything finished.