Kyoto, Japan: Wearing Kimono in the Geisha District of Gion

April 18, 2018
Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

“CULTURAL APPROPRIATION”? IN JAPAN IT’S CALLED CULTURAL APPRECIATION...

Warning: If you’re easily triggered you might want to skip this introduction and head straight for the pretty pictures. But then again if you’re the oversensitive sort you really shouldn’t be reading a site called “Posh, Broke, & Bored”... 

Now, I may not be an expert on identity politics nor the subtle nuances that separate “dressing up” vs. what some call “cultural appropriation” (but then again, when the thought police constantly shift the goalposts of what they deem acceptable, how does one expect to play the game? Well, that’s their whole point, but that’s another charged discussion for another day) but as a Far East transplant in the West I can tell you that us “Orientals” don’t waste time being offended when foreigners take an interest - however passing or superficial - in our culture. Why get mad when you can get mad money

Case in point: all across Japan, especially in the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, locals have made the most of the tourism boom by opening kimono rental shops so that visitors can feel the fantasy when in Japan while receiving an education on the culture. Wearing kimono and yukata, even outside of Japan, is considered by the Japanese as appreciative and respectful of their culture when done properly and with reverence to the history and customs of the country. Keep your mind open, your intentions pure, your curiousity sincere, and your execution tasteful; and you not only open a dialogue with and engage with other cultures but also look bangin’ while doing it. This is my experience with wearing traditional Japanese kimono in the geisha district of Gion, Kyoto.

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵


Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.Maiko are distinguished from geiko (the Kyoto dialect for geisha) by their more elaborate and brightly-coloured attire to compensate for their silence (as their training is spent shadowing their seniors) and also to reflect their youth.
Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.
STUDIO SHIKI HONTEN


My hotel, the Four Seasons Kyoto, booked my experience for me at STUDIO SHIKI HONTEN, a kimono rental studio in the Ninenzaka area. STUDIO SHIKI HONTEN also provides a MAIKO HENSHIN EXPERIENCE, where visitors can choose to be transformed into maiko (apprentice geisha) with the appropriate makeup, wigs, kimono and accessories from STUDIO SHIKI HONTEN’s substantial wardrobe. The MAIKO HENSHIN EXPERIENCE is captured for posterity in a choice of photography packages ranging from in-studio photography, outdoor photography in the scenic streets or Kyoto, or a combination of both. The MAIKO HENSHIN EXPERIENCE is an immersive experience, a way to walk in the footsteps of a maiko (such as these three ladies, above and left) - the last living links between the modern world and of the Japanese traditional arts.

MAIKO HENSHIN EXPERIENCE packages at STUDIO SHIKI HONTEN start from 14,900 yen for the Studio Shoot Plan to  80,000 yen for the First Class Plan. There are also Samurai Shoot Plans for gentlemen and packages for children. 



Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

"WHO IS THIS DEMURE CREATURE AND WHAT HAS SHE DONE WITH JASIMINNE?!"
"I CAN'T COME TO THE PHONE RIGHT NOW, I'M BEING A LADY."

Suited and booted, I took my new threads for a spin.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

I had rented the kimono for the day, starting at 11:00am to be returned by 5:00pm, and those 6 hours were a workout, to say the least. The stiff obi around my waist kept me ramrod-straight, while the layers of silk and Japanese undergarments took some getting used to. Maneuvering the cobblestoned streets of Kyoto was also challenging thanks to the socks and sandals, although it did lend my walk an unusual refinement and demureness. The elaborate and restrictive nature of traditional kimono forced me to carry myself with an elegance I didn’t know I had - not so much as part of a character but rather so I didn’t fall over, embarrass myself, and be promptly banned from ever entering Japan. Dishonour on you! Dishonour on your cow!

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.

Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.
Almost as a reward for my endurance (although “I had a hard time wearing a beautiful traditional costume” must rank as one of the most obnoxious Travel Blogger Problems ever), I stumbled upon an unexpected sight - a row of sakura trees in bloom. I had arrived in Kyoto just a little too early to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom and didn’t expect to see much of these famous flowers. I was perfectly content to just wander around Gion in my kimono, take in the atmosphere, and soak up the pre-game excitement in the air for the upcoming sakura season. 

Then at the end of the day, I saw a row of sakura trees along a canal. While the branches were not yet heaving with blossoms, the budding trees seemed to say to me: “You’ve come all this way to Japan and done so well at not being a complete baka gaijin (stupid foreigner), so here’s a little spring flavour for you”.


It was at that serendipitous moment that I realised I had come to a full circle with Kyoto. My previous trip to Kyoto, back in Autumn 2017, was marked by a dark cloud of uncertainty and impending doom for an ongoing struggle surrounding me. Last year’s Kyoto and Tokyo trip were tainted with darkness, which is partly why I never brought myself to write about my Japan travel stories: it forced me to relive up the unpleasant emotions I was feeling at the time, and also because I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do in Japan (including wearing a kimono) as I was too distracted.



Ever wanted to live out your best Japanese fantasy? I did just that, wearing a kimono in Gion, the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. This is my kimono rental experience in Kyoto.
But during my recent trip to Japan this past Spring, the dust had just settled on my situation and the horizon was not only clear, it was now dotted with cherry blossoms. I visited Kyoto in 2017 during the autumn of my discontent, and in 2018 I returned in amidst the budding flowers of Spring. A more fitting metaphor I could not have chosen, and for that reason, my kimono experience in Kyoto will always be that much more beautiful to me.

🌸🌸🌸

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