Monday, February 16, 2015

Kyoto Travel Post: Maiko Transformation

Kyoto. Truly one of the most amazing and mesmerizing places I've ever traveled to in Japan. On this trip, I went during the height of autumn (with my significant other) granting us the opportunity to witness nature's spectacular change of colors. Abundant with history, tradition, and excellent food, there is no shortage of things to do or see (or crowds for that matter). Aside from the numerous locations we visited and treats we sampled, the most unforgettable moment would have to be my maiko transformation.

To those who are unfamiliar, a maiko is an apprentice geisha. Iconic of traditional Japan you may recognize them with painted faces, elegantly styled hair, and dressed in full kimono. Contrary to popular misconception, they are not prostitutes but rather highly skilled performing artists. As traditional female entertainers they are trained in various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance, games, and conversation. My experience did not include training in these arts, but they did include 1.5 hours in makeup, hair, and finally kimono followed by an epic photo shoot. Here's a look at the complete ensemble:

Of the numerous studios available in Kyoto, I chose Maiko-Henshin due to the quality of their pictures and great value. Considering that the entire experience cost me under $200 USD, this was well worth the money. I went during their promotion and chose their "Special Campaign to Celebrate Completion of New Head Shop" package which included hair, makeup, kimono, studio photos, and an outdoor photo shoot with your very own photographer. For additional details please see their website for more information. Note: If you are terrible at posing for pictures (like me) don't worry! They will guide you to that perfect photograph. Without any further ado, here are some highlights of that day.

After the photo shoot you are given 20 minutes free time to wander around the immediate area. I advise that you bring your own camera to take more pictures, walk around, and feel like a celebrity. Though I must warn you that a lot of people will flock to you for pictures. I forfeited my rickshaw ride so I was allotted 40 minutes. Here's what I did with it:

And so concludes my maiko adventure. To those of you who plan on visiting Japan, I highly recommend this activity. Take a break from the crowds and numerous temples and transform yourself into an apprentice geisha.