Upon a visit to Kyoto, many who have read all the popular Japan tourism websites would believe that the streets of Gion are dotted with Maiko taking a relaxing day walk between performances and tea arrangements with wealthy businessmen.
In reality, yes, it is rare, but during festivals like Golden Week, it is expected that you will see plenty of pretty girls in floral patterns. Tourists!
Kimono in Japanese literally translates as “thing to wear”. There are different types for different occasions, and one can usually determine which by the type and pattern of the fabric, and the colours worn. In modern society, Japanese girls like to dress in kimono for parties and special occasions.
It is extremely popular for tourists to rent a kimono and walk around the temples and enjoy the experience of ‘being a Maiko’ for the day.
I decided it was time too.
So we decided to go looking for Kimono Rental Shops near Kiyomizu-dera, and there were plenty, all of them with some English guidance. We settled upon Kimono Rental Kyokomachi on the main road as it had a range of options and men’s Yukata too.
It is not cheap, renting a kimono with shoes and having your hair put up will set you back at 3000-6000¥. But this is for the whole day and there are couples discounts too.
After choosing our Kimono, Obi, bag and sandals, we were escorted upstairs to separated male and female floors to change.
Hair was put up with a small sakura Kanzashi and suddenly my hair-that-can’t-be-tamed looked actually… tamed. Ha. Now I can see why girls do it, it’s like being at prom!
There are many different parts to a kimono. The white undergarments called Nagajuban have a stiff collar to hold the kimono in good shape. More reinforcements called Koshihimo under the Obi (waistband) make the fabric fall in a certain way. Think of a 18-1900’s whalebone corseted dress and you have a similar idea of how a kimono feels like to wear – no breathing allowed! On the feet we wore Tabi, a pair of socks with just the big toes separate, to fit into the Zōri; traditional Japanese sandals.
Maybe I’m just meant for sweatpants…
The Obi is tied in a Musubi (knot) to stand up like a decorative piece at the back. There are hundreds of decorative Musubi which often represent flowers or birds depending on the status of the individual wearing them. Mine was a Chōchō Musubi, a common knot taking on the form of a butterfly.
My male friend Kevin wore a Yukata. Men and women traditionally can wear these as an informal garment. His Obi goes underneath the Haori (outer garment), with an beaded accessory called a Haori Himo holding it closed. He rocked it!
Safe to say, it was really fun experience. I think what I enjoyed most was the looks of surprise (or disappointment) from the general public when I turned around and they realised that I wasn’t a real Maiko.
Photographs taken by Danny Luong, a friend and very talented wedding photographer.
Please take a look at his other works here: http://dnyphotography.com