Kyoto offers the avid traveller an array of different experiences both cultural and insightful. It is a city that moves forward with the progression of modern day society while managing to maintain its rich cultural past which can be seen in the many beautiful temples or the old wooden buildings that line a lot of the city streets. However one thing I believe anyone visiting the old city of Kyoto should try, if you have half a day to spare, is the chance to try out the quirky yet mystifying experience of being transformed into a Japanese Geisha.
Geisha have always had a mysterious edge to them throughout history, with their porcelain white faces, bright red lips and their stunningly beautiful kimonos. It’s not hard to see why people would want to dress up in a kimono and put on the makeup if given the chance. The good thing is there are many different shops that offer just that, the chance to get all dressed up and have professional photos taken to add to your memories of an amazing holiday/trip. Different shops offer different types of experiences from a less than traditional/more modern take of a sexy geisha makeover to a very traditional type of makeover where the makeup and kimono resembles that of current professional geishas. There is also a difference between a maiko makeover and a geisha makeover and the store will usually ask you which you would prefer. A maiko has gorgeous hair ornaments to compliment the seasons or the wearer’s choice with brighter kimono colours and makeup styles. While geisha are more refined with darker colours in their kimono and makeup styles and no longer need the bigger hair ornaments in their hair.
It’s always best to research which shop will best suit your needs or what style of package you would like, however my top recommendation from personal experience is AYA found in Gion, Kyoto. They offer an amazing walking plan which includes having a geisha/maiko makeover, studio shots with your own professional photographer (which you get a set of photos to take home with you!) and a 60-minute walk out in the historic Gion quarter which is still used by geisha to this day. Also during the 60-minute walk you are welcome if not encouraged to take your own camera and capture your own photos too. They even give you a cute little map with good locations to visit while you’re out and send you off with a warm Itterasshai!
So for those who have an interest in Kyoto history or have always wanted to try something that’s just a little different from the normal kinds of experiences one tends to find on holidays then a Geisha makeover is something to think about trying. If nothing else it is an amazingly fun day that promises to provide amazing memories to look back on fondly.
Experience Geisha lifestyle: 4 recommended studios in Kyoto