My number one thing I wanted to do in Kyoto was to dress up as a Geisha girl. The temples, shrines and usual tour round Gion could come later.

Dressing up in Geisha or Maiko (old Geishas) kimonos is one of the most popular things to do in Kyoto. Worn out with navigating maps to find the ‘best’ places to do things in Tokyo, for my kimono photoshoot I decided to just go with the first place I saw, just round the corner from my hotel.

‘First’ turned out to be a good choice.

I opted for the hair, make up and their choice of kimono combo. I wasn’t fussed what it looked like – I just wanted to wear one.

I chose my hairstyle from about 40 pictures in front of me and the guy set to work poofing, curling and twisting. While he was working on the old barnet his colleague set to work whitening my face, pinking my lips and blushing my cheeks.

So impressed with the hair – this took about 15 minutes…

Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto

Kyoto kimono time

“Cute or elegant?”

My ‘stylist’ had two kimonos laid out for me. I went for elegant – thought it would suit me better. The curtains went round, I stripped off and she handed me the clothing piece by piece to put on. I don’t know the technical terms for the Geisha wear so I’ll stick with the lingo I know.

Kimono photoshoot in kyoto

I am wearing…

  • A thin white dressing gown
  • Black leggings
  • Thin white socks
  • Thicker white socks
  • Pink dressing gown
  • Actual kimono
  • 4 different straps round my waist
  • Something round the middle
  • And another something
  • Fabric all the way round and tied at the back
  • Flip flops / sandals

Dressing up as a Geisha girl Dressing up as a Geisha girl

This diagram from megpie252 is helpful – and a tad more technical.

Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto

The kimono photoshoot

I teetered out into their garden for a few snaps and then they told me I could do what I wanted but be back for 9pm. I was free to roam Kyoto where and how I wanted!

Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto

Sadly it started to rain and my usual London strides didn’t work quite so well with all the restrictive clothing. I kept thinking I was going to rip it or fall over, neither were a good idea seeing as the kimonos cost thousands.

I made it up to the nearby Yasaka Temple and wandered around pretending I was an elegant Geisha girl. Not some crazy, white, blonde tourist taking selfies and looking like a fool in the get up. I took some photos, some Japanese people took photos with me, and some schoolgirls stood laughing at me.

Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto Dressing up as a geisha in Kyoto

I didn’t really know what to do with myself. The only entertainment within a two-minute radius – all I could manage in the rain and the ‘okobos’ (shoes) – I could see, was Starbucks.

kimono photoshoot starbucks

And so I paid 5240¥ (£30) to dress up as a geisha girl, pull a stupid face and drink a flat white coffee in a Starbucks in Kyoto. What else are you gonna do on a rainy day?

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