Feb. 03, 2016 UPDATE
Editor's Report
Staff of experience report

Put being a Maiko on your bucket list!

Put being a Maiko on your bucket list!
Yukari Yukari[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]
Maiko are women that live in the 5 downtown areas of Kyoto (including Gion) and make a living practicing traditional Japanese arts such as nihon buyo (Japanese dance) and ohayashi (a style of music involving singing and the playing of instruments ). Their job is to perform at banquets and entertain guests.

Since the release of the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, Maiko have become well-known to the world, and I’m sure there must be numerous women out there that look upon Maiko in admiration of their cute, colorful appearance.

We visited Maiko Transformation Studio Shiki which offers visitors the chance to be transformed into Maiko for a few hours!From among the various options and different courses that include photo shoots and strolls outside, we choose the “Strolling Plan”.

▼Click here for more details about the shop

☆ We created a video of our transformation experience and have made it available on Facebook!

The “Strolling Plan” comprises of the following:

  1. Makeup (approx. 30 mins)

  2. Hair styling (approx. 10 mins)

  3. Fitting (approx. 10 mins)

  4. Studio photo shoot (approx. 10 mins)

  5. Strolling outdoors (approx. 45 mins)

  6. Undressing & makeup removal (approx. 15 mins)

In total, the session lasts around 2 hours.


*We received special permission from the studio staff to document the transformation process.Please understand that photos are not allowed to be taken while changing or having your makeup done in regular circumstances.

(To the manager and all the members of “Maiko Transformation Studio Shiki”, thank you so much and we appreciate your cooperation!)

Shiki Maiko Transform entranceOutside the studio before the transformation begins.

From here on in, we give you our report on our maiko transformation experience!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceSigning up is the first step. You need to give your name and contact details.

Shiki Maiko Transform experience(Yoko looking excited as she carries the prep items)

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThis is what the locker room looks like.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThe sinks are really well-stocked!

And they are equipped with an extendable shower head to make washing your hair and removing your makeup at the end a breeze.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceHere, we change into a juban (a long white undershirt-type garment). This is how it looks opened up.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThere are instructions affixed to the lockers explaining how to put on a juban. It’s a really nice idea!

Once we are dressed in our juban, we are ready to be made up!

And prepare to be painted white!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThis is the makeup room.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceHere, we have the makeup lined up and ready.

Shiki Maiko Transform experience

The transformation has begun!

White foundation is not only applied to the face, but also to the back of the neck and shoulders.

It felt so nice I couldn’t help but shudder a little.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThe makeup artist finally gets round to my face.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceAfter she finishes with the foundation, she powders my face and shoulders.

Shiki Maiko Transform experience

Now for the real makeup!

She starts by drawing on my eye brows—with a red pen…

Shiki Maiko Transform experience

Next, she gives them a final coat with a black pen (maybe dark brown?) .

It was pretty surprising to find out Maiko do their eyebrows this way!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceWe are both starting to take on a somewhat different look.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceNext is eyeliner. Pretty similar to normal eyelining.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceHere’s an extra photo I added. Doesn’t the makeup artist have awesome nails!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceNow we are on to the lips. The photo is almost like a shot from a movie. I love it!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceAfterwards, the makeup artist checks her work in the mirror.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceWe are pretty close to being done.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThis is the makeup artist concentrating deeply.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceLast of all is a slight touch-up.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThe eyes are finished and the makeup is complete!

From start to finish, it took 30 minutes.

Time to head into a different room to get our hair done!

Although real maiko don’t use wigs, they are used for convenience at the Maiko Transformation Studio. The wig is carefully placed over your real hair and finished off to look very natural.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThe wig is in place! My hair is still all over the place though…

Shiki Maiko Transform experience…so this is the hair stylist trying to tuck it out of sight.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceBecause her hair is brown, the stylist used a temporary coloring spray to get it closer to black. The color can be washed out easily, by the way.

Shiki Maiko Transform experience

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceShe's looking more like a Maiko!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThis is how it looks from above.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceFor the finishing touch the hair stylist puts an ornamental hairpin in place, and now her hair is done!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceWith our hair and makeup done, we now get to choose the kimono we want to wear. There are lots of colors and patterns to choose from.

There must be 50 kimono, so it’s tough, but we want to look perfect as Maiko and suddenly get quite serious about choosing the right one.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceIt’s now time to be dressed.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceA straight silhouette gives the most beautiful look, so this is how it all begins.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceAs soon as the kimono are draped over our shoulders, we are awash in color!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThe last step is choosing an obi (a sash that is tied around the waist). With the advice from the stylist, we manage to select obi that go great with our kimono.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceGorgeous!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceMaiko wear their obi in a unique way so they hang down at the back.

Now that our transformation is complete, we make our way to the photo studio!

A professional photographer snaps away, and we are able to take digital copies of the photos home with us at the end of the day.

Shiki Maiko Transform ExperienceIn general, photos are taken in 6 different poses, but you can add more poses as an optional extra.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceAfter the photo session, we have 45 minutes to stroll around outside!

You can also choose to have a professional photographer take shots of you as you wander around!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceOutside, there are other people around, so we are kind of nervous…

DSC01354Making our way down a quaint alley, we almost feel like real Maiko.

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceWe take selfies…

DSC01332And as we are walking along, we also get our pictures taken…

DSC01345(By the way…we aren’t real Maiko…sorry!)

Shiki Maiko Transform ExperienceWe find a picturesque slope to take a nice photo on.

DSC01472A snap with a five-storied pagoda in the background is an absolute must!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceWe’re looking pretty happy!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThis is the ornamental hairpin. Can you see the butterflies in flight? They are so cute!!

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceBack in front of the studio, we stop to take a last photo.

Once inside, we take off our kimono and wigs, and change into our own clothes.

What can I say about getting the makeup off? Let’s just say it’s pretty hard work…

Shiki Maiko Transform experienceThere are also instructions for removing the makeup (particularly the white foundation).

After we are changed, we settle the bill, pick up our photos, and that’s it!

It’s a fun-filled 2 hours from start to finish!
A comment from the staff
Recently in Kyoto, problems has been arising regarding manners toward Maiko seen walking around.
Generally speaking, Maiko seen in public are on their way to an appointment. It’s OK to admire them from afar, but try not to interrupt their work.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the staff at Shiki for their help in creating this post. Thank you very much!

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