Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Guess the geisha?





One of the things I wanted to do in Kyoto was to take geisha photos. This is when you get dressed up wearing traditional make up, kimonos, getas, the whole shebang.

It took me 2 hours to be transformed from a normal every day Asian girl into a Japanese geisha (or maiko or geiko - apprentice geisha). The make-up took ages to do. During that time I couldn't touch my face and to be honest I didn't really feel the need to cos I was so frozen and scared I'd mess it up or something. I rarely ever wear make-up and have only got my make up done professionally twice (one of which was for my wedding). As well as that I normally cannot wear mascara because the bristles irritate me and make my eyes water like crazy.

Firstly, I was told to get changed into their special toe socks, and a thin white cotton undergarment. Luckily the indoor heating was good or else I would've froze!

Secondly, I went upstairs to the make-up area. They first put this cold thing on the back of my neck, which I later found out was some kind of oil. Lots of oil. It looks like white powder but it is a thick oily gunky thing the consistency of oil paints! This was supposed to make me beautiful? LOL. The eyeliner was tricky. I don't recall ever having used liquid eyeliner before and she put it right into the inner corners of my eyes and I tried to hold it back but alas, the waterworks started running. I had to get a tissue to soak up the moisture and compose myself before we could continue. I didn't want to use the mascara but she told me my eyelashes would be white. She didn't use much pressure and just only put it on the ends so it ended up being OK.

With that done I was instructed to go downstairs and pick out my kimono. Easier said than done! The girl who got there just before me was trying to tell me it was hard to choose. My Japanese is extremely basic but from what words I do know she said 'muzukashii' which means 'difficult' so I knew she was trying to tell me it was difficult choose and difficult it was! There were about 100 designs, all different colours and prints. I wanted a red one but the only nice one was an orangey red and I wanted a pinky cherry red. Instead I ended up choosing a green and blue one (totally not red!) because of the beautiful cherry blossom prints all over it. Hubby said that my kimono was the prettiest one that he saw.

After I chose the kimono they dumped it on the floor in another room and then I had another staff member 'dress' me. They put padding on - kinda thin flat pieces of wadding around the top of my chest (just under my neck), stomach and waist areas and this was tied with cotton string. Then they put on another robe, yet more padding and more string. I lost track of how many layers there were. Five? Afterwards the kimono went on. At this point I could barely breathe and the heavy wide obi sash was digging into the top of my pelvis bone - fun! I asked if they could loosen it a bit and they did but it still hurt (damn boney pelvis).

With that done, some more long pieces of fabric were tied around my waist near the obi and then they plonked a wig that felt like it weighed 1kg on my head. Plonk. Wow. Now I looked like a real life geisha!

Almost done.. I had to put on my shoes. The shoes did not seem to match up. The one on my right foot seemed smaller and way tighter than the left foot, so tight I couldn't barely get my foot in, so they gave me another. But that ended up being an inch taller than the other one - crazy stuff I tell ya! So I spent the whole time limping.

With that done they put my own hair pins and elastic in a little purse and I met hubby and the photographer out the back in a little alleyway. Once outside I was freezing! The temp. was in the mid-teens or so and my torso being wrapped in so many layers was fine but my arms were freezing. Oh well, on with the show!

Luckily it was a Friday and not too bad in terms of the crowd. Everywhere we went we didn't have to wait long for people to move out of the way to get that perfect shot. Strangers came up to me and wanted a photo of me or with me. I just smiled politely but wanted to say to them, "Psst! You know I'm a fraud, right?" It was quite funny actually. But I actually was quite composed and didn't let the cat out of the bag! That was until we met an Australian couple and I couldn't hold it in any longer. I said to them, "You know I'm not really a geisha?" and they said, "Oh, we know." And then hubby and I got chatting to them.. hehe. On the whole it was easy to remain composed because I was forced to take tiny little steps and walk very upright and everything and once you start doing those things you actually start to feel refined and poised, LOL.

The photographer was only with us a for little while but we paid for 60 shots and got 80 so I was very happy with that. Then I had 15 mins with hubby (which I tell you felt like an eternity) to roam the nearby streets and take more shots with our own camera. On one hand I wanted to go on forever and take advantage of the time and this beautiful location, on the other hand I was slowly getting into agony city. The cold I could take, the uneven shoes I could take (they were platform clogs, and and shoe was a lot higher than the other remember?), the trying not to laugh or 'lose' it I could do too, but the wig! Oh the pain! There was one spot where the wire frame was digging into my head and I swear about to give me a major headache. It was poking. I don't know why I didn't feel it initially but man it was painful.

Still, in hindsight I did have a lot of fun and I'd do it again in a heartbeat! :D If only to realise how much pain the real geishas have to go through! haha. I'd recommend it to any female visiting Kyoto. For the guys, you can get dressed up as samurai. :)

Afterwards it was even more fun. 8 layers of baby oil to wash the makeup off my face! :)


sognatrice said...

Oh my goodness, you're gorgeous! And your kimono *is* quite lovely. What a great idea to have these photos taken!

Michele said...

Ooohhhh, I didnt know you could do that, but never thought about it either. Photos look great!