My Day as a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan

February 1, 2015

geisha kyoto japan

geisha kyoto japan

“No giggling allowed!” I said to Rebecca and Marie, head turned away to hide my own smirk. “We need the right attitude to pull this off.” Shuffling our feet an inch at a time, we painstakingly made our way towards the shrine looming at the end of the cobblestone street, less than a quarter of a mile away. The wooden platform of the Japanese geta on our feet was only three inches high, although it felt more like a foot. The sloped front of these so-called shoes made it a challenge to keep our balance and keep from tumbling off them and onto the uneven pavement. Laden down with the heavy layers of a formal kimono, that would not have been a pretty sight. The short trek to the shrine was going to take longer than expected.

Gion, popular for its abundance of shops, teahouses, and exclusive restaurants is also Kyoto’s famous geisha district where tourists gather in wait, hoping to catch an elusive glimpse of a geisha or a maiko, a geisha in training. Contrary to disreputable stereotype, a geisha is a professional Japanese entertainer who is carefully trained in traditional arts, dance, music, and communication, and acts as a hostess at special events – a 300-year old tradition.

Gion offers a unique experience, although it is not highly publicized – a three-hour makeover in which you are transformed into a maiko. Unlike the actual hard work involved in a real apprenticeship, the makeover experience allows you a brief experience as a geisha wannabe for a few incredible hours.

We arrived at the Maiko Café in mid-afternoon and were served green tea while the process was explained. There were three Japanese women attending to the three of us, including one very young apprentice maiko. Their English was limited, but we had a photographer/translator with us so communication was not a problem. It’s really quite remarkable how universal some actions and expressions are! We found these three ladies to be really hospitable and happy to join our giggling as the session progressed.

Read the rest of Becoming a Geisha: A Japanese Makeover in Pink Pangea.

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geisha kyoto japan

9 comments

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      I know, Noel! I really got into character, too. 🙂

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks! Getting to be geisha — if just for a few hours — was a blast!

  1. Comment by Donna Janke

    Donna Janke Reply February 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    What a fun experience. You look great. Can you imagine what it would be like to get made up this way everyday? And that would just be the preparation for your day – after that serving and entertaining. This post reminded me of a book I read years ago “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Japan is great, but this really was the highlight of my trip!

  2. Comment by Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    Carole Terwilliger Meyers Reply February 12, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    What an interesting experience that must have been!

  3. Comment by Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go Reply February 15, 2015 at 8:24 am

    There’s nothing like donning the clothing of another country to give you a glimpse into the culture. The traditional formality and sheer time and effort involved in wearing this traditional outfit is daunting!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…The Kunuku Homes of CuracaoMy Profile

  4. Comment by Patti

    Patti Reply February 18, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Wow! That is so cool! I had to look closely at the picture and would have never known it was you had I not read the caption.
    Patti recently posted…The What If Scenario ~My Profile

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