Mumma, who’s that pretty little face underneath the mask?
I asked my mum as we were strolling along the cobblestone alley in Gion, Kyoto.
I still vividly remember my very first encounter with a Maiko-san when I was a 5-year-old kid (with wild imagination).
When I returned to this charming ancient city of Japan years later, I was totally stoked to stumble across this place where I could play Barbie doll as a Maiko-san.
My obsession with Geisha and Maiko (an apprentice Geisha) probably started when I studied Japanese history during my university years.
The fact is, being Maiko and Geisha is much more than just a profession. It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a lifelong commitment. They’re trained in traditional dancing, music and singing from a very young age. Some people see it as one of the most anti-feminist professions in the modern days. Me? I see them as warriors to preserve a complex cultural identity and various graceful ancient art forms.
Years after, I’m still curious to find out who really was that fine pretty face underneath the heavy white mask.
For me, this is a fascinating exploration around fashion, culture and identity.
I didn’t quite get to find out the answer during this trip. But you know what, it’d be utterly inspiring if I were able to interview one of those Maiko ladies to see how their identity changes while ‘on stage’ and ‘off stage’.
My ‘Maiko henshin’ (‘henshin‘ means ‘transformation) experience took place in the Gion area, which is an enchanting town in central Kyoto that pretty much looks like it was frozen in time. From the cobblestone alleys to bright red lanterns and the tranquil water in Kamo River reflecting the vivid city lights, I was mesmerised and left speechless while taking in all these pretty sights.
And what else could be a better way to truly live and breathe that classic ‘Miyazaki Hayayo‘s film like’ vibe than dressing up as a Maiko?
I’ve left my heart in Gion.
Maiko Henshin Studio Shiki, Kyoto
351-16 Masuya-cho,Kodaiji Minamimon,Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi | Web
‘Outdoor Shot Plan’ includes 50 poses at outdoor locations, with a free 14-page photo album to take home consisting of 14 photos selected from the shots. The plan also includes 30 minutes free time for strolling in your kimono after finishing photoshoot (warning: those sky-high wooden clogs are extremely wobbly to walk in!).
The plan costs 23,000 Yen and requires around 3 hours.
So tell me dear fellow globetrotter, are you also fascinated by Maiko and Geisha culture? Have you visited Gion in Kyoto? What are your fondest travel memories in Japan? I’d love to share your ‘travel stoke’ moments so be sure to leave your comments below!
Until next time. Stay classy.
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