A Geisha Makeover in Kyoto
A Geisha makeover in Kyoto was high on my bucket list and my dream came true when I visited Kyoto this year. I visited the popular studio AYA Gion in the historic Geisha District of Gion. This studio is in an authentic teahouse where Maikos once performed, so I immediately knew that this experience was going to be very special.
What is a Geisha?
A Geisha is a highly skilled entertainer who appears at high-end dinners, private parties, and special events to add a special touch. They are not prostitutes, despite various silly rumors and descriptions in certain books and movies. Rather, they are ladies who have trained for years in the traditional Japanese arts to become the perfect entertainers. Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s Geisha world and here the Geishas are called Geiko (pronounced “gay-ko”).
What’s The Difference Between a Maiko and a Geiko?
Young ladies, usually between the ages of 15 and 20, train for five years to become a Geiko. During this period, they are known as Maiko (pronounced “my-ko”). It’s easy to tell the difference between a Maiko and a Geiko: Maiko wears colorful kimono with long sleeves and appears with their own hair worn up with a variety of extravagant hairpins (known as kanzashi), while Geiko wears plainer kimono with shorter sleeves and appear wearing relatively unadorned wigs. Both Maiko and Geiko entertain guests and they often appear together at various functions.
Gion-Aya studio and the makeover
When I stepped into the house I was warmly greeted by the Aya Gion team. Then I was asked to remove my shoes and I followed the make up artist through to the dressing room. Here she helped me change into Maiko undergarments and tabi split-toe socks. The transformation to Maiko or Geiko is known as a “henshin” and it started with the cosmetics. First, my face, neck, shoulders and the chest were cleaned, then my make up artist applied the beeswax on my skin. She painted white makeup with a traditional brush and blotted on with a sponge on my entire face and front. A rim of bare skin is left around the hairline to give the illusion of a mask. On my back neck, she painted “shiro-nuri” a “w” shape, symbolizing the mask a Geisha wears. The skin left bare on the nape of the neck is known as the“eri-ashi” (collar legs). It is designed to draw attention to the most sensual part of the Geiko’s body.
The pink powder is added around your eyes ant to the forehead to add to the youthful style and the red eyeliner is applied under your eyes to create a dramatic and contrasting aesthetic. In the end, black eyeliner and mascara are added to your eyelids for a final definition and a red lipstick is applied to your lips. Lips are painted red in different styles, depending on the stage of their training.
The next step is putting on the wig called “katsura”. The wig is placed on top of your head and pinned in with bobby pins. Front and side sections of your hair are pulled out to help hide the traditional wig, making it look like your real hair.
The makeover takes a little over an hour and every thoughtful step of the complicated process represents something meaningful.
The last part of the transformation is to choose the right kimono. I was escorted upstairs to select my Kimono outfit from dozens of beautiful colors and patterns. Then there is a process with many layers to get you fully dressed as a Geiko or Maiko. As I choose to be a Maiko for the day, I also received decorative hair ornaments to complete the look.
Depending on the plan you choose in the beginning, you will now be escorted to take photos as a Geiko or Maiko. I choose a studio and outdoor course and had two studio shots and four outdoor shots with a 30 minutes walk in the legendary Gion quarter. I also received a USB loaded with all photos and printed photos with two large-size portraits.
It was one of the best and things I have ever done and I would really recommend it to everyone. The makeup artist and staff were so helpful and attentive and they made the experience even better. If you have the chance to walk in the shoes of Geisha for a few hours, then don’t hesitate. It will be a memory for a lifetime.
Did you enjoy this article or find it to be helpful? We would love to hear from you! You can write your comments below. Please share! Thank you for reading A Geisha Makeover in Kyoto!
OurWorldTravelSelfies would like to thank Gion-Aya for welcoming this review. The opinion is as always, my own. Photos are courtesy of Our World Travel Selfies.