Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Geisha (or Maiko) Transformation Experience in Kyoto

I've been to Kyoto several times now, but we normally end up doing the usual Nikishi Market and the Kiyozumidera Temple for a day trip (you can read the details of that here), so this time around, when we went to Kyoto with Ady's friends who loved Memoirs of a Geisha and wanted the experience of transforming into one herself, I was really game to go with them... and live vicariously through her. Hahaha. Yes, I would love to do it myself, but I'm too cheap to shell out the cash. 

You can actually find a lot of Geisha Transformation packages online, which normally includes the transformation (make up, wig and kimono) as well as the studio where they have a photographer to take photos. Then there are more expensive packages which include strolling along the streets of Kyoto, or add-ons for more intricate make-up or more natural wigs, or nicer head-pieces and kimonos.

The place Ady's friends found is offering discounted rates until the end of the year, so the basic package was discounted to 4,900Yen (Previously published price was at 13,000Yen) for a Studio Package with 6 free shots and 10 minutes free time to take photos using your own camera.

Since we had a two-day Hankyu Tourist Pass, we just took the Hankyu Train from Umeda Station.
The secret to travelling in Japan is making sure you jump on the express
train. I took this photo as our train was overtaking the slow one.
It was such a pleasant surprise to discover that the
Kyoto Kawaramachi Sation was smack in the middle
of Kyoto's main shopping street.
On our previous trips, we used to take the JR Trains, so we still had to
take the bus to get here.

Our first order of business was to find Studio Shiki for Jenny's Maiko Transformation. We just took a bus to take us to the general direction of the Kiyozumidera Temple. From the main street, you actually need to go through a maze of small streets to get there, but it seemed like the whole place was geared towards tourists wandering around.
On the Main Street, we saw a traditional Mochi Shop.
The side street we turned into had this shrine which
made for a pretty picture.
Selfie in Kyoto
We had to walk in the side streets behind the shrine to find the Studio, but it was easy enough to ask directions from store owners who speak English. It was a nice walk because we saw a lot of things along the way.
An Art Gallery of Sorts
Some of the stores look like this. Can you spy Totoro?
One of the tourist attractions are person-drawn
carriages. Seriously.
The place where the studio is located is heavily
concentrated with souvenir stores, and local tourists
in their own kimonos.
Japanese Dolls from one of the stores
The Studio was easy enough to find because they
had a big sign right next to the shopping street.
But you need to walk a little bit more inside to find
the place. (View of Main Street from Studio)
Jenny made a reservation through email before we arrived, we were
a bit late, but they're pretty flexible.
While Jenny got the pretty basic package, there are still a lot of add-on costs that you need to factor into your budget if you decide to go, like something as basic as socks - which they ask you to buy.
Some of the other costs you can say no to, like the use of a Half-Wig,
so half your hairstyle uses your real hair. This will set you back by 2,100Yen.
Another added expense is if you choose to do the Geisha Transformation (I think they look more mature and dignified) vs the Maiko Transformation included in the basic package. This upgrade will set you back by another 2,100Yen so we decided not to avail of it.

For the transformation itself, only the participant can enter the make-over area, so we were told we could come back after 45 minutes to an hour to help Jenny choose her Kimono.
To kill time, we just went around the surrounding area.
Small streets, quaint shops and tourists (both local and international)
doing selfies galore.
We walked further but it looked all the same.
So we decided to stop and buy some snacks instead,
since it seemed like a long wait, and lunch would be late.
I was happy enough with my Omi Beef Croquette since I had it before,
but Doc was really disappointed at the croquette that was 98% potato.
We went back in time for Jenny to choose a Kimono, and we opted to go with dark and bright colors, instead of the lighter pastel options. Then we waited for around another 45 minutes to an hour, then someone called us to come in and join Jenny for her photo shoot.

The official photo shoot was very well done. The studio has a lot of props available, such as umbrellas, balls, flowers, etc, and they have numbered spots on the wall, so the photographer just tells the subject to look at Number 1 or Number 2 on the wall and smile, to come up with consistently beautiful photos. Then we were led into another room where we were told that we had 10 minutes to take photos with our own camera.

We had Jenny pose in every way possible, so Doc and I were able to take
some pretty good photos.
The basic package doesn't allow outdoor shots in their own inner
garden, so we just had Jenny stand by the door to get some water shots.
Even Geishas Maikos know how to have fun!
And of course, we needed to take some shots with us!
After the free time photo shoot, Jenny went back in to wash of the make-up. This roughly takes the same amount of time as it takes to put it on. While she's transforming back into herself, the studio is also busy printing out the best photos.
You can opt to have the photos printed in a photo-
book for an additional 590 Yen. Jenny's book was so
nice, it was really worth the additional cost.
Jenny's before and after shots.
I think over-all, Jenny's Maiko Transformation cost her a bit under 7,000Yen inclusive of all the add-ons she availed off. The whole experience probably took around 3 hours. If you're a Geisha fan, this would really be a great experience for you. In fact, I am quite tempted to do it with Sofia on one of our trips back if she's interested.
This is me in the shopping street before leaving.
I insisted on a picture with my umbrella since I carried it. 

After lunch, we just took a bus to go back to the main shopping street so we could have a late lunch at Ady's favorite Soba Place in Nikishi Market. I didn't really get to take a lot of photos but here are some things that caught my attention.
Fruit from Japan are so good, but they're quite expensive.
There are also a lot of pretend food, which you can buy in all forms,
from magnets, key chains that include the utensils, as well as ear picks.
Ceramics Shop
Tamago Stall
Unagi Stall
Fresh Edamame Beans
Fermented Veggies (eeew)
Japanese Sandals
Until we found the place where we always eat lunch at Nikishi Market.
Ady ordered her usual Soba with Tempura, while Jenny and Doc ordered
pork slices and chicken gizzard, while I had my usual Chicken Karaage
and fried tofu skin.
We didn't really do much of anything else in Kyoto because we were rushing to head back to Kobe (yes, that's all the way to Kobe... not back to Osaka) so we could have a second night of the really good Kobe Beef to die for - but more on that in another post.

Thank you very much Jenny for letting me live vicariously through your Geisha Transformation. We also really enjoyed it. just saying.

You can visit the English website of Studio Shiki here.

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