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Maiko Transformation in Kyoto, Japan

On my first trip to Japan, I had the unique opportunity to experience Maiko Transformation in Kyoto. It’s a traditional Japanese practice where a woman is dressed and made up to resemble a geisha-in-training, known as a maiko. It was a truly magical experience that immersed me in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, and I’m excited to share it with you.

In this blog post, I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of a Maiko Transformation, share my personal experience, and offer tips for anyone interested in trying it out themselves. So, let’s dive in and discover the world of Maiko transformation in Kyoto!

my early spring OOTD in Kyoto

Maiko Transformation by Maiko Henshin

We came in on a busy day where there were so many people getting a make over. We did not make a reservation as reviews say we can just walk in. Upon arrival at the studio in Ninenzaka, we immediately went to the reception and inquired if they can still accommodate us. The receptionist told us that they could accommodate us, but it would take 3 hours for the whole process. I was a bit hesitant when I heard this. But then, it could be my last chance to try this only-in-Kyoto experience so in the end I signed up for the Basic Studio Plan.

The Kimonos Geisha/Maiko wear are crazy expensive that’s why they had to wear platform slippers to avoid it getting stepped on. To think they could perform and walk gracefully in these heavy Kimonos and high slippers is quite impressive. Can you imagine doing that every night and day of your life?

To celebrate the completion of their new head shop in Ninenzaka, they offered the basic Maiko Transformation package for as low as JPY 4,900. The thing about their promotional campaign is that they do not promote it to their walk-in customers. Good thing, we told the receptionist right away that we are going to sign up on their promo online. The other customers we met do not even know about that promo.

Flow of the Maiko Transformation

The process will start and end in the changing area at the third floor. Firstly, I got stripped down to my underwear, had to wear a thin robe and washed my face to remove make-up. Then we waited in the second floor for our make over. We waited for like 40 minutes and it could have been enjoyable if they play us a video about the history of Geisha and how it started. I was hoping for Memoirs of a Geisha actually. Instead, we were forced to watch a vintage american film. I kinda die of boredom!

Step 1: Make-up

When our names are called in the make up area (they called us Maria Sama and Jett Sama! SQUEAL!), I got very excited! The make up part was actually my favourite. My make up artist applied a solid oil like a wax all over my face, my neck and my upper back. I was absorbed in watching her. She was so accurate and fast. When the make up base is done, it is time for Shironuri (the white make up).

my friend Jett and together with our Maiko Transformation classmates 🙂

My make up artist started painting a silky white base to my face and neck, I felt like I was really a Maiko. She applied the white base meticulously, with careful brush strokes to my eyes and lips. Then she started to draw the Maiko’s trademark, the V-shaped pattern on the back of the neck. When I opened my eyes, I could no longer recognize my self! She also used face powder on my skin with a sponge to make sure texture is even. She painted the corner of my eyes in red and applied mascara. 

Step 2 – Kimono Selection

When our make up is done, we went to the Kimono area where we choose among the large selections of Kimono with many different colours, motifs and design. I fell in love with mine! It was a black Kimono with Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) design. You see, I am very obsessed with Sakura!

lots of kimono to choose from!

Step 3 – Wig Placement

We were taken to the wig area afterwards. The half wig is lighter and it looks natural. To blend real hair and a half wig, a special black dye will be applied. The full wig included in the basic plan is very heavy, I should have upgraded it to half wig. After they carefully placed our wigs, we were taken to the Kimono dressing area. 

Notice the difference in our wigs? My friend was wearing the half wig and I was wearing the ugly full wig (cheaper).

Step 4 – Kimono Fitting

One of the staff assisted me and it was amazing how she took control over me. She managed to push, pull and tuck everything effortlessly. My breathing becomes laboured because I was tightly wrapped with so many cord and obi sash. I should have asked her to loosen it a little bit but everything happened so fast! I felt like I was going to pass out because of poor oxygenation!

my pick was this sakura inspired Kimono 🙂

Just a reminder, make sure your bladder is empty before you put on your chosen Kimono. While encased in a Kimono, it will be extremely difficult to use the toilet. I did not get the need to use the toilet, but I was already restless because I can’t breathe. I moved a lot so I can find a perfect posture that will enable my lungs to expand. It was amazing how none of the cords came undone!

Step 5 – Photoshoot

Thank the universe we did not wait long for our photo shoot. Our photos were taken by a professional photographer in a studio. After 6 various poses, we were assisted outside for our additional shots. I availed one extra shot, whilst Jett availed two. Afterwards, they let us take some pictures by ourselves with our own camera.

women in kimono
wearing our beautiful kimono

Basic Maiko Transformation Package

The basic plan includes make up, full wig, Kimono of your choice, 6 studio shots and 10 minute free time for taking your own photos. We actually spent 30 minutes strolling outside the studio. It was busy that day so I guess they did not monitor how long we stayed outside using our own camera haha. When we finished taking photos, we went back to their changing area and removed our make up. We went back to the receptionist to pay and collect our photo books. All in all, I paid a little over JPY 7,000. 

Maiko Transformation Overall Experience

So in a nutshell, I can say that it was an awesome experience. I know some people think Maiko Transformation is very tourist-y and does not really give you the basic idea of the history of Geishas and the Kimono, but really I was thankful I did go. Thankful because of the the few good laughs we had during our transformation, our crazy experience walking in the streets and meeting other nice ladies. 

Maiko Transformation Updated Rate (2023)

The rate for the basic indoor package by Maiko Henshin ranges from JPY 7,000-16,000 (3,300 pesos+ or USD 60+). Inclusions are as follows:

  • White make-up (optional)
  • Kimono (with free Japanese socks)
  • False eyelash
  • Natural wig (you can choose between a natural wig or no wig)
  • Photography in Japanese room (3 official photos)
  • Photo book with 3 pages (203mm×145mm)
  • Soft copy of all photos
  • Free time to take pictures by yourselves for 10 minutes

By Project Gora

Hey there! My name is Milet Miranda, and I'm a full-time corporate employee during weekdays and a traveler during weekends (and get the picture). I'm a foodie at heart and I love joining food tours. When I'm not traveling, you'll find me walking my dogs or biking around my neighborhood.

7 replies on “Maiko Transformation in Kyoto, Japan”

I think it would be an awesome experience for anyone who is interested in Japanese culture. Looking forward to seeing my daughter..a student in Japan, go through this experience for me. And i will definitely keep these pictures in my album and also share them with family and friends ❤️

You can do it Charm! Just plan ahead and always be on the look out for cheap fares on CebuPac, I am sure you will be able to see Japan! Good luck! 🙂

At first, all the geishas looked the same to me. Sorry! (^-^) But then after scrolling down, nakita ko din sino ka dun Miss Milet! Haha. Japan is in my bucketlist. Hopefully in 3-5 years I’d be able to save enough money to fund my Japan trip and maybe, if budget would permit, I’d also be a geisha even just for a day! =)

Hmm.. Their Kimonos are really gorgeous and look expensive! But wearing it was extremely uncomfortable haha

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