Today I visited Kyoto with Satomi & Mai to dress up as Geisha!
We arrived early, and started the long process of being Geisha-ized. Actually, we dressed up as Maiko - Geisha in training. The difference (for us) was the price and the way we dressed. We changed out of our clothes and into the Kimono underwear - a thin, light pink housecoat-style garment. We went upstairs to choose our kimonoes. They were beautiful! I chose a beautiful red kimono with gold and colored drawing. Then we got painted white! The white went all over our faces, around our necks and the tops of our chests, and down our backs, with an unpainted w-shape. We had red lips painted on, and black and pink coloring around our eyes. After the makeup, we moved to the hair room and got our hair. Most of our hair was put into a net, and a big heavy wig was tied onto our heads. Our hair was combed into the wig to make it look natural - but it looked a bit strange on me, since the wig was black and my hair is not! We needed help getting dressed, and it involved a lot of layers, sashes and ribbons - and it was quite heavy! We got a few minutes to take photos in a room with some props, in the front entryway, and then we got to venture out into the street and take a photo in front of a shrine gate. Walking down the street, men looked at me funny, and older women commented on how great it was that I was dressed up as a geisha! It was a lot of fun! Pretty neat, huh?
It's a common belief that Geisha are prostitutes, but that's not true. True Geisha do not provide sexual favors to their customers, but are traditional entertainers, using music, dance, and art. There is a branch of Geishas that are prostitutes - true Geisha wear their obi (the large bundle of fabric) in the back, and require assistance and at least an hour to dress. Oiran (geisha-style prostitutes) wore their obi in the front, so it could easily be taken off and on.
There are still Geisha in Japan, and they live in geisha houses called okiya. To be a full fledged Geisha, women go through much training. The first stage of training is called 'shikomi'. Young girls work as maids in the okiya - intentionally difficult to make or break the girls. The girls also attend school - once they can pass a final dance exam, they are promoted to the 'minarai' stage. No more housekeeping - they get training and are allowed to participate in ceremonies in minor rolls. After this stage (approximately a month), they become maiko (generally teenaged girls). They learn the rest of what they need to know by shadowing their onee-san (older sister). This stage lasts from 6 months to 5 years, and charge full price for their time, until they retire.
After our Geisha experience, we had some lunch and did some sightseeing in the area. We visited a temple and the market street. Since this post is getting long, I'll talk about the temple next time!
A few more photos... Geisha Day