Maiko Makeover – Kyoto

On our last day in Kyoto, Monique and I spent our day doing something stereotypically girly: dressing up. But not any old dress ups – Maiko Makeover dress ups.

My ten year old self would’ve been squealing with joy. I wasn’t far off to be honest.

A quick brunch on the Gojo-dori

We had a late breakfast in a cool little Art Deco cafe on the Gojo-dori and did some gift shopping while we waited to go to Maiko Makeover.

The cafe was called ‘Open’ which I think is some sort of crazy genius as a name for an eating establishment. I didn’t take a photo at the time but managed to track that sucker down on GoogleMaps:

Open Cafe Kyoto Gojo-dori Japan travel japlanning writer


We had the most amazing brunch here: two fresh eggs (they taste different I swear), two rashers of thick bacon, two pieces of thick toast and coffee all for a piddling 500 JPY. That’s like, $5.80 AUD. I literally couldn’t even buy a shitty Perth breakfast for that price!

There wasn’t much point taking photos of our breakfast, because I’m sure we’ve all seen bacon and eggs before, but I had to take a photo of my coffee because it came with literally the world’s smallest milk jug:

Open cafe kyoto japan travel japlanning writer freelance

A milk jug for fairies


Being in this cafe was a little strange for me because smoking was allowed inside (as with most places in Japan) and the food was mostly greasy breakfast goods and fresh bread. So this cafe in Japan smelled 100% like my Grandmother’s kitchen.

It was literally the last place in the world I ever expected to find that and, in many ways, it’s why I remember it so fondly.

Yasaka Shrine

After we finished stuffing our faces, we walked through Gion to Yakasa Shrine. Yasaka Shrine is at the end of the Shijo-dori and, as such, is just down the road from Gion-Kobu Hanamachi.

Yasaka Shrine kyoto japan travel freelance writer

Entrance to Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine Gion Geiko Maiko Japan hanamachi travel JaPlanning

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Yasaka Shrine Gion prayers Kyoto Maiko Geiko travel JaPlanning Japan

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Yasaka Shrine Gion Kyoto Emas Maiko Geiko travel Japan JaPlanning

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Emas at Yasaka.

Yasaka Shrine smashed together two things you don’t often see in conjunction: consumerism and worship.

As it’s a shrine, by it’s very nature, it’s a place of worship but when you enter and walk up the winding path there’s market stalls on both sides. You can buy tea, coffee, street foods, trinkets, gifts, clothing and pretty much anything else you might want.

It did feel a bit tacky though.

The shrine itself is (of course) dedicated to prayer. You can flick a coin into the shrine, ring the bell and make a prayer. You can also buy little wooden plaques (emas) and leave your prayer or wish behind. I chose this one because it appears to be a man having a conversation with a rabbit!

Yasaka Shrine prayer japan kyoto japlanning

This rabbit angers me!

We didn’t stay very long at Yasaka as it was getting towards 12.30 and Maiko Makeover was at 1pm.

Maiko Makeover

Our makeover was booked at a place called Yumeyukata and when we arrived two ladies greeted us warmly and seated us in a waiting room to decide what sort of photo we’d like. Like a lot of places in Japan, the waiting room was trapped in the 80’s. There were photos of 80’s pop princesses squished in between all the ‘Maikos’ and I think ‘Unbreak my Heart’ was playing.


You can choose from a variety of poses (with a parasol, sitting down, looking over your shoulder etc.) and there’s a variety of different photo packages available. The cheapest is 8,800 Yen (around $90 AUD). We chose the 8,800 JPY option and were then invited into the back of the house where we changed into bath robes.

Next we had our makeup done which was great fun (I love being made up!). A Maiko makeup kit is very different to a western kit and much more limited in product repertoire. The white foundation Maiko use is quite a watery product before it dries (as opposed to thick, western foundations) and the brush used to apply it is a thin, long brush rather than a thick, dense one. There’s also a heap of powder involved!

The lips are applied with a lip stain rather than lipstick and the mouth is painted distinctly inside the lip line, reducing the size of the mouth, rather than enlarging it. Finally the pink blusher is also used down the sides of the nose between the eyebrows and tip of the nose as a contour.

Very different!

Next we picked our Kimonos (Eeeee!) and were dressed. And wow: what a process. I’ve never worn so many individual pieces of clothing in my life. I think, all up, there was between 15-20 different items of clothing!

On top of that the obi is extremely stiff (very much like a corset) and the whole package is freakin’ heavy. I instantly gained (even) more respect for Maiko and Geiko and everything they do dressed like this.

Finally we had our ‘hair done,’ which is to say, we chose a wig. Then we added hair ornaments and shuffled upstairs ready for the snappy-snaps! We had one professional photo taken each and were also given lots of time to take photos with our own cameras too.

Then, just like that, it was time to take it all off again.

A treasure for your wall

The Maiko Makeover experience was fabulous and we both really enjoyed it. But guys?

Maiko Makeup does not suit westerners.

Oh my god.

When Monique and I received our professional photos we laughed ourselves into wheezing fits (not while we were still there!). I absolutely refuse to put the professional ones up but I will put up two that I find at least not completely awful:

Maiko makeover kyoto japan travel japlanning freelance

So nice from the back!

Maiko makeover japan kyoto japlanning travel writing

Not so good from the front xD

And trust me: those are the best photos! I don’t regret it though.

Being dressed in the kimono was enlightening and even though the photos didn’t turn out exactly as planned, the kid in me still loved being dressed up in these beautiful clothes. It achieved what I think all dress-up is meant to achieve – seeing yourself, even momentarily, in a new and fresh light.

Next post: Our loss, your gain – How to get to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion)

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

Visiting Yumeyakata

Yumeyakata which is located just off the Gojo-dori. There are actually two services offered at Yumeyakata and they’re located in different buildings although they’re very close together.

Kimono hire is located in a high-rise building that can be accessed directly from the Gojo-dori. It’s the seventh floor (I think). If you choose to hire kimono rather than be made up as Maiko, you can spend a day walking around Gion dressed in it!

Very cool.

Maiko Makeover is one block over. Walking towards the Kamo-gawa, turn left down the next street after the high-rise that offers kimono hire. This map shows their locations relative to each other:

Look for the tiny tiled building with two green flags near it’s door:

Yumeyukata Maiko Makeover Kimono Hire Kyoto Japan JaPlanning maps travel

Access map for Yumeyukata Kimono Hire and Maiko Makeover

Yumeyakata Mako Makever Geisha Geiko Kyoto JaPlanning

Maiko Makeover

If you’re arriving by train the closest train stations are Gojo station on the Karasuma Subway Line or Kiyomizu Gojo on the Keihan line.

Image Credits:

[Feature Image Credit: Yelena Casale]

[Image Credit (1,2,3): Monique Nielsen]

What would you prefer: Maiko Makeover or Kimono hire for a day? Let us know in the comments. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Maiko Makeover – Kyoto

  1. Pingback: Visiting Onsen | JaPlanning

  2. Pingback: How to get to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion) | JaPlanning

  3. Pingback: Return to Tokyo | JaPlanning

  4. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part III – Kyoto | JaPlanning

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