The Maiko & Geisha Makeover Experience

Transforming into Maiko was hands down one of the coolest experiences ever! My friend Jen and I had makeovers done at AYA studio in Kyoto, Japan, where all the magic happened. We then got a full on photo shoot with a professional photographer and got to walk around the neighborhood to take our own pictures. This was our experience:

When you arrive: Maiko Or Geisha?

To get to AYA Studio, I recommend taking a taxi so you don’t get lost! There are a number of narrow streets and alleys so it’s best to just hop in a cab. When you arrive, you are seated in a comfortable room where you are shown pictures of Maiko and Geisha. You then get to select which one you want to be transformed into!  My friend Jen and I both selected Maiko, they are usually aged 15-20 and are known as an apprentice of Geisha. They become Geisha when they learn a type of Japanese traditional dance.

The Makeover & Transformation

Maiko is known for it’s white face makeup and traditional costume. The transformation was unbelievable and so much fun to witness! First, you change into a white robe and leave all of your belongings in a locker safe and sound. Then, you go into the makeup room where all the magic happens! They will remove all the makeup first and then pile on LOADS of white paint all over your face, neck, and part of your upper back. Next, they add bright red lipstick to create tiny lips and add loads of eye-shadows and eyeliner. If you don’t have jet black hair, they will spray some dark black hairspray on top of your hair to match the hair piece they put on top of your head. Don’t worry, it all comes out quickly!

I was literally smiling from ear to ear the entire time they were applying the makeup, I thought it was so much fun! After the makeover is complete, you then get all dressed up. You go in another room upstairs and select which colors you want to wear. I chose the light yellow and Jen chose the red-orange. There are LAYERS and LAYERS that are wrapped around you, super tightly. So, I think you’re not meant to really breathe, but it’s totally worth it for the photos…

The Photo shoot

Once you’re all made up, you then go into a private studio where you get to select the types of photos you want. Meaning, you select the style and pose that they will put you in.  The below pictures were taken by one of the photographers that works at AYA. 

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After the professional photo shoot, we had some free time. Based on the package we selected, we got to spend some time outside and walk around to take our own pictures:

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Please note I was welcomed as a guest by AYA Studio. As always, all opinions are my own.

Want more?

Thinking about a Japan Rail Pass? Learn more about the bullet trains and JPR

Need a hotel in Tokyo or Kyoto? Check out Park Hotel Tokyo and Suiran, A Luxury Collection Hotel in Kyoto

Visiting more of Japan? Here are all of my posts on Japan


  • What a beautiful experience. I think that exploring and appreciating a culture should also include a deeper look on traditional costume, hair and makeup – in cultures that do have such features. And I honestly think this s very interesting way to embrace a culture’s beauty canons and see how they suit a person from a different ethnicity. It’s a very beautiful way of experiencing a different culture, just like eating its food, for instance!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! It was such a unique way to experience and learn more 🙂 I highly recommend this.

  • Oh my gawsh, I love this! Completely agree with Eva the first commenter. Would be amazing beyond food to have places everywhere to transform into the local culture. What an awesome experience. If I could do something like this I would like to be transformed into a Game of Thrones time period character! What a cool way to learn history 🙂

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