Maiko Geisha Makeover
Destinations

What It’s Like to Dress Up As a Geisha (or Maiko) for a Day

Take a literal walk into a time warp in Japan's quaint and atmospheric ancient capital.

First things first: we need to clarify the terminology. What are the differences between geisha and maiko? Without getting into lengthy historical and linguistic discussion, geisha (literally means ‘arts person’) is the generic term for women who are highly-trained in Japanese traditional arts, including music, singing, and dancing. Maiko, on the other hand, refers to apprentices training to be geisha.

Now that we know the real essence of a geisha, I hope it will help us appreciate what it takes to become one. Surely, I shall not qualify – not  in a million years – no matter how much training I get, to even come close to be considered the ‘arts person’ or the ‘apprentice’. I admire the elegance they embody, and fancied on the idea of having a photo wearing a geisha or a maiko costume one day. That day came in Kyoto. Excited to feed my fantasy, we booked in one of the most highest-rated studios called Yume Koubou. They have 7 studios for you to choose from, and some are offering outdoor (walk plan) service also.

The photography package included the makeup, kimono, props, and retouched high-res photographs. To get the “look”, you should be ready for a complete makeover session, sitting patiently for more than an hour with your eyes closed. I kept snoozing, and wondering if the whole thing was worth it! I love the rich crimson satin that accentuates the maiko costume, so I picked that one when I was ready to dress up. The entire process took longer than I expected, and the end-result was kind of like a “cosplay”.

After series of shots were taken, we waited for about an hour or so while the photographer did ‘the works’ and saved the final versions in a disk for us to take home. They will give you a printed copy for an extra fee. A friend gifted my granddaughter with a satin pinkish Japanese Kimono that she happily wore on that day inside the studio. While all wrapped up, the staff very kindly encouraged us to have a special granny-granddaughter photo-op as well before I took my costume off. I hope my granddaughter will treasure our photos together as much as I do when she’s older. Was it worth taking the maiko photo shoot? Yes, it was! And I shall gladly do it again with my granddaughter when she’s old enough for the outdoor shoot.

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