Maiko Makeover with Kyoto AOI – The Day I Became An Apprentice Geisha

The best part about travelling, aside from trying out new cuisines and taking beautiful photographs, is the chance to learn about another culture. There are many such activities such as pottery making and Japanese tea ceremony, but geisha makeover has always been top of the list for me.

I was really looking forward to getting a geisha makeover during my first trip to Japan, so I did some research. Apparently, geisha’s makeup, kimono and hair accessories are not as pretty as those of maiko’s (apprentice geisha),  so we decided that we will do maiko makeover instead.

JapanCheapo wrote an excellent article named “Kyoto Maiko Makeovers Below 10,000 Yen” and after much comparison, we finally decided to do our maiko makeover at Kyoto AOI.

This is what we paid at Kyoto AOI per person:

Dream (Yume) Plan 5800 Yen + Hand Knot Single Tie Band 1000 Yen + CD Storage 500 Yen + 8% Tax = 7880Yen

This roughly equates to around Singapore $100 which I think is a very reasonable price. Geisha and maiko makeovers normally cost thousands of dollars!

I highly recommend Kyoto AOI for their professionalism, friendly service and great pricing. They have an English-speaking staff so you will not have problem with communication.

Reservation must be made 5 days in advance for online enquiry form but you can call 075-361-2477 for same-day reservations.

Enjoy the slideshow of my maiko makeover!

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I was shown into a clean changing room with washing basins to wash my face and remove all makeup. I was asked to change into a white gown and white tabi socks.

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All the hair are pulled back with a netted hairband.

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The makeup artist applied a white foundation on my face, neck, upper chest and upper back.

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The makeup artist applied shironuri paste to my face, neck, upper chest and upper back, leaving the nape of the neck (known as “komata” in Japanese) exposed. A “V” shape is left so the natural skin colour shows, this is seen as a sensual area and it will peek out subtly once the kimono robe is put on.  A layer of kona oshiroi powder is applied to smooth out the paste and bring shine to the white foundation.

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Next is the eye makeup. The makeup artist contours both my upper and lower eye lines with black and red eyeliner and a light pink powder is applied at the outer corners of my eyes.

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After that she goes on to apply a small circle of red at the outer corner of my eyes, red around the eyes symbolises amulet (protection). She applies mascara is applied to my eyelashes to make them stand out.

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Now, she paints a thin black eyebrow over my covered eyebrows with black eyebrow liner and pencils, with a thin line of pink underneath.

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After applying the red aqueous lipstick called keiu shima, it’s time to do the hair. She puts a small amount of Vaseline (she said that they have experimented with various oils and found that Vaseline works the best) on my fringe and side hair.

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The fringe and side hair is combed into the semi-wig to give it a more natural look. She helped me take pictures from the front, side and back. Now you can see the komata which is the uncoloured part at the nape of the neck in”V” shape.

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We have finally arrived at my favourite part, the choosing of the kimono. There are many designs to choose from, every one of them is so beautiful, it is really difficult to choose just one!

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I was wrapped in a kimono-shaped robe with a bright red collar called nagajuban. The nagajuban is worn to reduce the need to have kimono washed, which are difficult to clean. She nearly cut me in half when she was putting on the datejime, an colourful undersash that is used to tie the nagajuban.

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Finally, she puts on the kimono that I chose. I chose this red kimono with white cherry blossoms, a design that is perfect for symbolising spring (which is the season when we visited Japan). After that, she put on the obi, which is 7 meters long, in a balanced manner to the shape of “love”. The hair ornaments which I chose are attached to the wig. Ta-da! I have transformed into a maiko!

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Now for the photography by the professional photographer. How do I look?

For those of you who are interested, Kyoto AOI posts each step of their maiko makeover on their website (the website is in Japanese, for those who do not understand Japanese, I would recommend viewing it in Chrome so that you can Google Translate the page into the language of your choice).

Kyoto AOI

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Address:Kyoto City Shimogyo-ku Toigono Dori Shichijo Shimoura 2-Chome Higashi Salt Shikicho-Cho 541-1 (New Suwao Building 4F)

Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm (last reception at 5pm)

Telephone: 075-361-2477 (telephone receptionist 10am – 8pm)


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