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April 24th 2008 by Tina
Memoirs of a Geisha-for-a-day

Posted under Japan

On the streets of Kyoto, I had stumbled upon an advertisement for Maica – a shop in which geisha-giddy schoolgirls and tourists can pay to be dressed up in full geisha costume. After days of hinting around that I was crazy about the idea, I finally called the shop to make an appointment. The girl who answered the phone spoke little English but I managed to make an appointment for the following morning.

It was a gray, rainy day in Kyoto as we made our way to Maica for my 10am appointment. There was not a waiting room for Aaron to sit so he took the umbrella and disappeared into the rain. Meanwhile, I selected the maiko (apprentice geisha) costume instead of the true geisha costume because the kimono and accessories were more colorful and ornate. I was directed to the second floor to change into a thin, pink robe and a pair of tabi socks. Then my transformation began. I sat on a low stool while a young woman applied my makeup. I’ve never been able to tolerate foundation on my face – even sunscreen feels too greasy – so I was surprised to find the creamy whitening base cool and soft. My makeup artist took her time; she had a soft touch and smiled sweetly, making the experience feel like a true pampering.

With a pretty painted face, I moved into the wig room. There were two wig options: the recommended half-wig incorporated your real hair into a hairpiece for a more natural effect; I opted for the full wig, which fit like a helmet with a built-in widow’s peak. The wig was heavy and a little tight but, by this time, I was too mesmerized by the transformation to be bothered by it.

I had pre-selected my kimono and it was waiting for me in the dressing room when I arrived. In a whirlwind of fluttering hands, I stood motionless as the numerous (I didn’t count but there were at least ten) pieces of the kimono ensemble were assembled around me. It felt like a many-faceted chastity belt. The assembly happened so quickly that I didn’t realize how tightly some of the ropes were wrapped around my torso. I mentioned to the woman dressing me that it was a little tight and her heavily accented, matter-of-fact response was “Kimono is tight.” I was out of my element, surrounded by Japanese speakers, and was perhaps too intimidated to push the issue so I tried to focus on expanding my constricted lungs upward rather than outward. That’s probably not physically possible but the thought of it seemed to quell the panic attack that was rising inside me.

The excitement at seeing the completed transformation for the first time in the mirror definitely distracted me. I just stared at myself in utter disbelief. The first thing I noticed is just how dissimilar are my facial features from Asian features. Admittedly, I made a pretty hideous geisha – Aaron noted my likeness to Eddie Munster (in a loving way, of course) – but in a costume as elaborate, bright and beautiful as a geisha’s, you feel simply exquisite.

I walked down to the first floor to pose for the professional photo and then to be admired by my adoring husband. After the brief photo session, the photographer informed the receptionist that I was ready to receive Aaron but returned with the deflating news that he had not yet returned. Suddenly, I remembered how tight my kimono was, which reignited the panic. What to do? I had just spent the equivalent of two nights accommodation on this frivolous girly pleasure. I certainly wasn’t going to rip it off before Aaron got to see me. I inhaled the deepest constricted breath that I could muster and sat down on a bench in the receiving room, trying to remain calm, for what seemed like some of the longest minutes of my adult life. It was worth it. When Aaron returned, he dutifully fawned over me and played Hollywood photographer, posing me in different lights and angles and perfecting my little fantasy. On a sunny day, you can pay extra to stroll or ride a rickshaw on the city streets in costume. I would have loved that but my indoor photo session was great fun.

While Aaron settled my bill, I went back upstairs to disrobe and wash the makeup off my face. The girls in the dressing room had me stripped down to my little pink robe in about 2.5 seconds – the makeup was another matter entirely. After about twenty minutes of rubbing myself raw with a soapy towel, I finally emerged downstairs looking disheveled but passable.

Little girls love to play “dress-up”. I don’t think that we ever lose that desire as women – we simply have fewer opportunities to play “make-believe”. After my geisha experience I was giddy for the rest of the day. It was a fun excuse to laugh, get pampered and be silly. What adult couldn’t use a little more of that?


3 Responses to “Memoirs of a Geisha-for-a-day”

  1. Margaret SimpSon on 01 May 2008 at 3:05 pm #

    Tina: You did not look like Eddie Munster. You looked really good. You are right that every adult needs to play at dress-up, even some men. It sounds like you had a lot of fun doing this, even with the breathing problem. Can’t wait to read more.

  2. Margaret SimpSon on 08 May 2008 at 7:43 am #

    Tina: I put your group picture of the Geisha’s on my desktop here at work and the response is awesome. The women love the fact that you dressed as a Geisha and the men love the picture (must be because they fantasize about geisha’s.). The overall compliment is you look GREAT!!!

  3. Jim Koerperick on 03 Aug 2008 at 6:48 am #

    Hi Tina,
    I like the way you dressed up in that Geisha costume for a day. Mom really loves the photo. I printed it so I can see you everyday.