Nov. 14, 2018 UPDATE

We became real maikos at Transformation Studio Shiki

Sharing Kyoto's writers became almost real maikos at Transformation Studio Shiki, and walked the streets of Kyoto elegantly.
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:

Makeup (approx. 30 mins)

Hair styling (approx. 10 mins)

Fitting (approx. 10 mins)

Studio photo shoot (approx. 10 mins)

Strolling outdoors (approx. 45 mins)

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!)

Outside the studio before the transformation begins.

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

Signing up is the first step. You need to give your name and contact details.

(Yoko looking excited as she carries the prep items)

This is what the locker room looks like.

The 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.

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

There 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!

This is the makeup room.

Here, we have the makeup lined up and ready.

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.

The makeup artist finally gets round to my face.

After she finishes with the foundation, she powders my face and shoulders.

Now for the real makeup!

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

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!

We are both starting to take on a somewhat different look.

Next is eyeliner. Pretty similar to normal eyelining.

Here’s an extra photo I added. Doesn’t the makeup artist have awesome nails!

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

Afterwards, the makeup artist checks her work in the mirror.

We are pretty close to being done.

This is the makeup artist concentrating deeply.

Last of all is a slight touch-up.

The 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.

The wig is in place! My hair is still all over the place though…

…so this is the hair stylist trying to tuck it out of sight.

Because 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.

She's looking more like a Maiko!

This is how it looks from above.

For the finishing touch the hair stylist puts an ornamental hairpin in place, and now her hair is done!

With 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.

It’s now time to be dressed.

A straight silhouette gives the most beautiful look, so this is how it all begins.

As soon as the kimono are draped over our shoulders, we are awash in color!

The 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.


Maiko 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.

In general, photos are taken in 6 different poses, but you can add more poses as an optional extra.

After 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!

Outside, there are other people around, so we are kind of nervous…

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

We take selfies…

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

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

We find a picturesque slope to take a nice photo on.

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

We’re looking pretty happy!

This is the ornamental hairpin. Can you see the butterflies in flight? They are so cute!!

Back 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…

There 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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