Just over a week ago we returned home to Hawaii after a 10-day vacation in Japan. From Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo then back to Osaka again. Even with the threatening typhoon Lan and stormy days during the trip, it was still oh-so-amazing!
To me, the most memorable experience was the opportunity to be a Maiko for a day.
A maiko is a geisha-in-training. The term “Geisha” means “art person”. This means one must be highly skilled in their arts to be considered a geisha. Geishas are experts in traditional dance, classical music, tea ceremony, and much more. They are well versed in social situations and are expert conversationalist. The role of a geisha is constantly misunderstood (mostly by westerners) as they are thought of as escorts, sometimes prostitutes. They are not. They are exclusively hired to entertain during sophisticated dinners and events. They portray beauty, elegance, and their talents that they perfect. They go through rigorous years of training, and they are an important cultural asset to Japan, sadly there are very few of them left.
Having a maiko makeover wasn’t just the chance to put on white makeup and dress in a kimono. It was the experience of being professionally made up, to wear a warishinobu wig adorned with colorful hair pins and be beautifully dressed in a traditional kimono. Not to mention being able to tour (in tabi socks and platform clogs) a few of the most historic and preserved streets of the Edo Period in Gion, Kyoto….. specifically Ninenzeka, one of the oldest streets in the history of Kyoto.
For a few hours you get to feel like a real maiko or geisha, and it was an unforgettable experience! Although it was a bit tiring because of the stairs, slopes and uphills, and the nonstop photo ops/selfie requests by tourists and locals alike…..but well worth it….
AYA KYOTO –
This Maiko Makeover Experience would not have been possible without AYA KYOTO. They have been very accommodating since the beginning. They were responsive through email even while I was still on-island (Akiko and Wakana were my contacts through email). We rescheduled because of the storm and they even allowed my bff Kelsie to participate. Another geisha makeover company in Gion, who will remain unnamed, wouldn’t allow any woman expecting, no matter what stage of pregnancy, to participate in the makeover. AYA accomodated Kels, and we had the time of our lives! Here are some photos from our maiko makeover, to help you get a feel of how the process works.
The AYA studio was a traditional teahouse during the Taisho Period in the early 1900s so it has an authentic, traditional feel as you enter. You are welcomed into their common room where you fill out paperwork and choose what poses you would like during your photo shoot. You will then have to remove any makeup you are currently wearing in the washroom, where there are lockers to place your belongings. They will give you a simple white under-robe and white tabi socks, the robe which you will be wearing beneath your regular kimono.
You then go into the makeup room, partnered with one of their professional makeup artists, where all of the magic happens!
Phase one includes skin cleansing, moisturizing and the application of white makeup powder.
Phase two – four includes eyebrows, eyes, then lips! Pictured above with my makeup artist Yukiko. She was such a joy to work with, such a sweetheart! After the makeup was applied, my hair was styled and sprayed to accommodate the maiko wig to make it look as natural as possible.
Here’s a quick video clip of how much fun and laughter actually happens during hair and makeup! Look at those adorable little maikos behind me! 🙂
After makeup you go into the dressing room where you pick from over a hundred choices of kimono and obi combinations. I picked a black and red color palette. Pictured below are the racks of exotic and colorful kimono designs and obi sashes you could select from.
In the photo above, pretty Kelsie is getting dressed after choosing a pink and light green ensemble.
After dressing, we are taken into a different room where the indoor photo shoot takes place. Below is a candid while doing a sitting pose, with photographer Mark guiding proper body angles and where to look.
After the indoor photo shoots, we were given one hour outdoors to walk/tour the streets Maiko style 🙂 We could not do it without our platform clogs, or slippahs as we call it here in Hawaii.
During the walking tour, our husbands Marlon and Bronson along with little Kellon became our personal photographers. They took candid photos as we strolled the fascinating streets of Gion. It was like taking a step back in time as you meet tourists dressed in casual kimonos and yukatas. There were some locals who may have believed we were also real maikos on the way to an appointment. It was sooo fun to see how curious and starstruck they were.
Photo above were students from Sakurajima Elementary School who wanted a photo, they were soooo adorbs!
And just a few more photos featuring Honey-san and Kelsie-san as Maikos, promise 😉 ….
Doesn’t it look fabulous?!?!
If you are thinking of doing something as amazing as this during your travel to Japan, contact AYA KYOTO below:
“Maiko or Geisha in Kyoto. Try on a Maiko Costume at AYA and experience the exotic worlds of traditional Kyoto culture. to be a Maiko makeover yourself. “
They recently received a 2017 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Adviser where they hold an average of 5-star reviews!!!
If you are still not convinced, watch their official YouTube video below
Thank you so very much AYA KYOTO, we had the time of our lives, we will never ever forget our memories in Gion. Much love and Aloha from Hawaii!!!