Maiko Henshin at Studio Shiki



Maiko Henshin Experience at
Studio Shiki


Maiko (舞妓) are young women who have decided to embark on the rigorous training process of becoming a geiko (芸妓; Kyoto dialect for geisha). Even though they are effectively the face of Kyoto both in Japan and abroad, there is still much mystery that surrounds their profession. However, if you're interested in experiencing a little bit of this world yourself, you can see what it's like to wear the costume of a maiko through services known as maiko henshin (舞妓変身; lit. maiko transformation). One such place that offers this service is Maiko Transformation Studio Shiki, located in the beautiful Ninenzaka area of Kyoto. 


Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki makeup
A makeup artist will recreate the makeup design of a maiko. 

Your transformation begins in makeup. The makeup artists will cover your face and create the maiko’s iconic forked outline at the nape of your neck using a thick white makeup called shironuri (白塗り). Next comes red lipstick, red and black eyeliner, and a highlight of red on your eyebrows. The look is completed with a dusting of blush.


Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki wig
Because a han-katsura uses some of your own hair, it creates a more natural look. 

Next comes the wig. A full wig called a zen-katsura (全かつら) is included in all experience plans at Studio Shiki. A zen-katsura looks fairly natural, but those who want to take things a step further can request a han-katsura (半かつら) for an additional fee. Meaning half-wig, your natural bangs will be styled into the front of the wig, creating a completely natural hairline. A black spray dye is used for participants with light colored hair. This can easily be washed out at the studio at the end of the experience. Makeup on and wig in place, it’s time to move into the dressing room.

Kimono Kitsuke

Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki kimono dressing 1
While getting dressed, you can see all the bits and pieces needed to create a maiko's iconic costume.

Because a portion of their training is spent observing an older geiko “sister” at work during a period called minarai (見習い), the costume worn by maiko is more splendid than that of a geiko as a means of compensating for her relative silence. It also reflects her youth; while geiko wear the short-sleeved tomesode kimono of a mature woman, maiko wear long-sleeved furisode kimono that only young, unmarried women may wear. 
Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki kimono dressing 2
You can choose the kimono you like from Studio Shiki's collection.

At Studio Shiki, you can choose your kimono from their substantial wardrobe, and the staff will dress you with a coordinating obi. 


Photo Shoot

Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki studio photo shoot
An example of a photo taken inside the photo studio. 

The type of photo shoot you have depends on the plan you choose. Studio Shiki has a range of packages that offer in-studio photography, outdoor photography in the scenic streets around the studio, or a combination of both. The head shop also offers a special plan with an extensive photography package that includes both in-studio and outdoor photography as well as photos in the studio’s gardens, tatami mat room, and tea room.  
Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki outdoor photo shoot
Outdoor photos are taken in the picturesque area around the studio.

If possible, I suggest going for a plan that includes some outdoor photographs. The maiko costume combined with the scenery of Kyoto make for some great pictures. Of course, there’s also the skill of the photographers to thank for that. All plans include a photo album which will be ready to take home with you on the same day. 
Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki photo album
The number of pictures included in the photo album depends on the plan. 

Finishing Up & Final Thoughts

After your experience is over, you can wash your face and, if you’ve had it spray-dyed, hair in one of the sinks inside Studio Shiki’s changing room. The studio supplies facial cleanser, toner, and hair dryers. 
american girl dressed as a maiko
Me during my maiko henshin experience. 

Unrelated to work, I chose Studio Shiki for my maiko henshin experience when I lived in Kyoto. I was learning both how to wear and the history of kimono at that time. Considering that my interest in kimono had originated from geisha, I thought it would be a worthwhile experience. I was very glad that I chose Studio Shiki. The makeup and the wig looked excellent. My hair was cut in a short bob at the time of my experience. I thought that it would be impossible to use the han-katsura, but the staff expertly styled my hair into the front of the wig and sprayed it black. As promised, the han-katsura had a very natural look. 

maiko henshin experience
I chose a plan that included some outdoor photography so I could pose with some beautiful Kyoto scenery.
This is also a great experience if you're interested in kimono. This goes without saying, but the kimono that maiko wear are very different from typical kimono. Being dressed in one means you get to see everything that goes on underneath the kimono to achieve the maiko's iconic look. So if you're interested in maiko and geiko, kimono, or are looking for a very unique way to commemorate your trip to Kyoto, consider making an appointment for a maiko henshin experience at Maiko Henshin Studio Shiki. 


Maiko Henshin Experience Studio Shiki main store
Studio Shiki's main location. 

Studio Shiki Head Shop | スタジオ四季本店
Address: 351-16 Masuya-cho, Kodaiji Minamimon, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Maiko & Kimono Rental Shiki Sakura | 舞妓&レンタル着物四季さくら
Address: 110-9 Tatsumi-cho, Higashi-oji Matsubara Agaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 

For more information including plan descriptions and directions, please visit their website:
※ Please note that available plans differ by shop location. 

Have you ever tried maiko henshin? What did you think of the experience? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share this article! 

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