on August 29, 2008
Whenever anyone comes back from Kyoto, most likely they will tell you about their trips to famous temples and shrines, and maybe even how they spotted a Geisha or two."But I bet you didn't get to BECOME a Geisha!" I've earned the rights to say these words! Okay, so maybe I didn't actually become a REAL Geisha - and my terminology is incorrect when I say "Geisha" at all. What I mean is "Maiko" - an apprentice Geisha, bearing the familiar image that comes to mind when somebody says "Geisha". I had done a little bit of research before I left for my Kyoto trip. I found a few studios that offered a "Maiko Transformation". So once I arrived at my hotel, I promptly checked with the concierge about my own Maiko transformation. He booked reservations for me at Studio Yumekoubou for the very next morning.I awoke for my appointment very excited. Studio Yumekoubou was within walking distance of my hotel, adjacent to Kyoto Station. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a nice lady that worked for the studio. She helped me fill out the appropriate paperwork, and then put me into the hands of another lady.In the dressing/makeup room, I was handed a tiny robe that would make a hospital gown look like a 3-piece suit. Potential Maiko-wannabes should be warned: The lady (very clinically) tells you to strip down to your undies and put the robe on - and she is darting back and forth gathering supplies while you do so. Not recommended for the shy ladies!After I put on the skimpy robe, I was seated in a hairdresser chair in front of a vanity mirror. In a flurry of paint and makeup brushes, I opened my eyes and suddenly realized that I was bearing the famous white skin and red lips! The process was so fast! And the lady was very proficient and skilled in the realms of Maiko makeup - I looked exactly like I had seen in the movies, and just like I had imagined I would. (But better!) Not to spoil all of the Maiko's secrets, I can only say that a mere 5 minutes later, my hair was also done. Little chimes and bright flowers adorned my hair. Now all that was left was the kimono.The lady motioned for me to choose a kimono from an entire rack of rich, vibrant cloths. (She spoke very little English.) I had always heard I looked ravishing in red, so I chose a bright red Kimono covered in beautiful lotus flowers. The lady removed it from the rack and proceeded to first put on the appropriate furisode (kimono) undergarments. 3 layers later, the kimono went on. More wrapping was involved, and soon I felt like I was wearing a corset! She then grabbed a bright green obi (the wide belt) and wrapped that around the other small ribbons enveloping my waist and holding everything in place. Now I looked like a true Maiko! But she put on two more pieces and my transformation was finished! She took escorted me out of the dressing room, and I made my own Maiko debut to the world. (Or at least the photo studio.)As I stepped out of the room, I noticed my own husband walked right by me. "Heyyyy!" I cried. Apparently, he didn't even recognize me! After re-acquainting, a friendly photographer showed me into the studio for portraits! The photographer spent about 45 minutes snapping photos in various poses with a handful of different props. Closeups, headshots, full-body shots. With umbrellas, with a fabric ball, with my husband, with the infamous scary Geisha shoes! It was a lot of fun and the photographer was energetic. He "posed" me beautifully. When I got my proof sheet, I saw the skill of the photographer. The poses he put me in seem so natural, so... Geisha-like! I couldn't have been happier. The first lady greeted me once again, and had me pick out 3 of the proofs to be put in an album as part of the package I had purchased.Unfortunately, the photos are air-mailed to your home, so you cannot take them home with you. However, once the photographer is finished, he allows you to take photos with your own personal camera in a small corner outfitted with some quaint props. (A footbridge, trees, and a small Japanese-style window, painted in the auspicious red color found throughout Japan.)If you would like a Kyoto keepsake that is far more unique than a picture in front of a temple, and an experience that most ladies only imagine, make reservations for Studio Yumekoubou! They also photograph small children and friends, and offer a variety of different photo packages. A sightseeing photo package is also offered! Prices start at JPY 9,975 (Or about $90 USD depending on exchange rate). Reservations are highly recommended.
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