Yesterday I shared some photos on Instagram of some of my favourite holiday memories.
Dressing up in Japan.
It should be ultra cheesy and horribly touristy but it’s not. It’s fun and you get to choose your kimono from an entire roomful of gorgeous colours.
I’ve had photos done on 2 different trips to Japan, each done at the same place Maiko Henshin in Kyoto. I originally discovered it, as one of my best friends lived in Japan for many years and on a visit he suggested it as something fun to do.
You need to book in advance but unless you are there in peak holiday time you can normally book only a day or so in advance, other times it can be over a week before there is space. The staff have limited English so the first time my friends booked for me and the second time I asked my hotel to help me with the booking.
When you arrive you are shown into a locker room and given a chemise to change in to. Take off everything but your underwear and pop on the chemise. All of your belongings put into a secure locker and you get a key on a stretchy cord to wear around your wrist. If you want to take your camera with you, you may have to ask permission as normally they ask even your phones to be locked up. Photos are not allowed until after you are fully dressed and finished with the professional photographer.
From there you go up a few floors to get your makeup done. The makeup feels weird. It’s a thick white paint and just a little cold when being applied. The staff are all lovely and each time they have gone to great lengths to tell me to take out my contacts. After awhile I managed to convince them that my blue eyes were not contact lenses but just my eye colour.
After make up you go down a floor and led into the most amazing room absolutely bursting at the seams with kimonos of all colours and patterns. You are asked to choose a kimono and an obi. It is overwhelming and you want to steal them all (well I certainly did, want to that is, I didn’t actually steal them).
In the next room a small army of women dress you. You lift your arms when told and they swarm around you. The idea is create a square silhouette so extra padding is applied. You feel like a couch!
All too soon you are dressed and they are tying up your kimono with a decorative belt. Then it’s time for a wig. Each time I have been very blonde (the first time was actually blonde and pink) so I get a full wig. In some of the photos I can just spy little bits of blonde at the back. Seeing myself in dark hair is always a little bit of a shock.
The photography room is adjacent to the dressing room. Here is a tip my friends gave me on the first trip and it’s so good I just have to tell everyone. Don’t smile with your teeth in the photos. Closed lip smiles only. Why? The white make up is so astoundingly white, you look as if you have terrible yellowed teeth even if you have fabulous teeth. So practice a closed smile. Oh and go with a neutral nail polish or none at all. It really shows up in photos and can clash with the traditional look.
The photographer poses you with a variety of props. Fans, umbrellas, bags and a Temari (embroidered ball). They pose you, tell you where to look at the wall (there are numbers on the wall for you to follow) and all too soon you are done.
You can pay for an extra package which allows you time to walk around outside. I’ve done this both times. First time was fantastic as it was beautifully sunny and wonderful to pose outdoors amongst the traditional buildings. The second time it was raining and well lets just say that photos in the foyer are not very spectacular.
All up it takes a couple of hours and is a really wonderful experience. It’s not exactly cheap and be warned they don’t take credit cards only cash so come prepared. After you are done with the photos you get undressed (with help) and then back to the locker room. Using many many many wipes and a hefty dose of baby oil you can get the white make up off.
Oh and it’s not just for the ladies, the men can also get dressed up too, with The Englishman choosing to dress as a Ronin.