Maiko Dressup: Take Two!

The second time I did a maiko dressup, I went with some friends of mine.  I didn’t do any of the booking, but my friend managed to find a studio right in front of Kyoto station that included hair, makeup, dressing, professional photography, and a trip outside for about 10,000 yen.  Just a warning, this post is mostly photos.


First, makeup!


My last moments before they start applying the makeup.


Getting the distinctive maiko neck makeup applied. The cold makeup made shivers run down my spine!


They applied pink blush under the white so I didn’t end up looking completely like a ghost.


The “pure white” makeup before they add the details. You can still see a hint of the pink around the eyes.


Getting the details applied to my eyes.


Almost done! Just the lips left.


After makeup came the wig.



Here, they are brushing out some of my hair to cover the top and sides of the wig so it looks like it’s all my hair.


Fitting the wig.


The final product!


Finally, dressing in kimono.  They had a good selection of kimono and obi to choose from and they took care of all the dressing.



Starting off with the juban. You can see their selection of kimono behind me.


Getting dressed up like a doll. All I did was stand there with my arms out.


Getting kanzashi fitted into the wig. I let the professionals choose them.


The final product! Two of my friends are getting dressed in the background.


And from the back.


I was having so much trouble “smiling” during the professional photos. I always smile, but I know that maiko don’t. I was trying to do a half smile, but it comes out as a bit of a smirk. Oh well.


All six of us dressed and ready to go.


Everybody else went out to walk around town in their kimono.  Unfortunately, I had tickets to see a stage production in Osaka that night and I had to leave early.  It took longer than expected for all six of us to get dressed.  I definitely enjoyed this experience more than my first one.  It was a lot more professional and they weren’t trying to rush us through.

I also discovered a reason why maiko would blacken their teeth.  With all that white makeup on, it doesn’t matter how white your teeth are, they will always be yellow in comparison to your face!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my transformation!  And thank you to whomever was holding my camera and taking pictures.  I know it got passed around a lot.  Miss you guys!

Maiko Dressup: Take One!


This is a maiko, an apprentice geisha, and it’s a very popular tourist activity in Kyoto for people to dress up in kimono and get their makeup done in the traditional all-white face. There are lots of studios that provide this service, and nowadays you’re just as likely to see these tourists as you are to see an actual geisha or maiko. This is the story of my first experience dressing up as a maiko.

My first trip to Japan was in 2006. I was a solo backpacker with no clue what I was doing. I wanted to go to Gion Matsuri, and during the course of the day, I met two young women who had just returned from a working holiday in Canada. They were planning to do a maiko dressup later in the afternoon and they invited me along.

Now, this was eight years ago. And everything happened very quickly and in a language that I didn’t understand at the time. I don’t remember much about the actual experience. Some things that I do remember are…

I remember that the kimono were old and worn. Mine had some visible wear and damage, but I just chalked it up to it being a rental.

I remember that the wig hurt.

I remember that they had a small garden set up for people to take photos with their own camera.

I remember that we couldn’t go outside.

Here are some of the photos I took that day.

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But what I most remember about the experience was the reaction I got when I got home. I hadn’t told my parents about the photos. I wanted it to be a surprise and see if they recognized me. When I got home, this is the conversation that we had.


Me: I met a geisha in Kyoto and she was nice enough to let me take photos of her.

I show the picture.

Mom: oh very nice.

Dad: Looks like a man.

Me: Dad that’s me!



Seriously, Best. Reaction. Ever. I still laugh about it to this day. And honestly, I can’t quite bring myself to disagree with my dad. Maiko makeup just didn’t quite work on me.  This time.