Becoming a maiko - young apprentice geisha - is one part elegance and three parts hard labor. Available in many studios sprinkled throughout Kyoto, this rich experience lets you live the life of a maiko, if only for one ethereal night.
Your visit to Maica studio near Kyoto train station starts with a cup of green tea and a rack of neatly arranged kimonos. Choosing one that catches your eye - the attentive staff recommends gentle colors appropriate for a young maiko - you are ready for the transformation to begin.
The foundation to becoming a maiko is a white, clay-based masque, painstakingly and carefully applied to your face and neck by the chatty attendant. Dramatic kohl and rouge eye make-up is next, followed by cherry-red cupid bow lips.
Donning a heavy black wig with kanzashi (traditional flower hair accessories), you glance at the mirror and see the beginnings of a 300-year old tale.
Another cup of green tea, and the elaborate affair of dressing into maiko's attire begins. Maiko's look has four key pieces: kimono with floor-length sleeves that makes your movements slow and intentional; tight and heavy obi (sash) that straightens your posture; embroidered collar that weighs down your shoulders and elongates your neck; high wooden geta (shoes) that make it harder to walk but easier to float on Kyoto's cobblestone streets.
Transformed by a skillful artist, you become a work of art yourself. A fragile, fine Japanese art.
Tips: Plan at least 3 hours. From $70.