Gion Kobu Hanamachi
Blue Hikizuri

Costume Stats:
Wardrobe Completed: 2016
Debut: Kyoto, Japan, May 2016
Convention History:
Photo Castmates:
Purple Hikizuri: Scarlet
Cream Hikizuri: Majodere
Photo Credits:
Gion AYA Photography

Maiko are apprentice geisha who assist in entertaining clients at banquets and parties with traditional dances, music, games, and conversation. With their colorful and elaborate kimono, accessories, makeup and hairstyles, maiko are typically what the international community imagines when they picture a geisha; as a result, maiko are often the poster-children for Japanese tourism and geisha culture. Prior to debuting publicly as maiko, girls typically spend a year or more training as shikomi inside their geisha house, and then several months as a minarai (observer) at events. Once an official maiko, girls spend the next three to five years splitting their time taking intensive classes in dance, music, and other traditional art forms and gaining a circle of clients. After completing their maiko apprenticeship, girls can choose to debut as a full-fledged geisha or retire back into private life.

Wardrobe Notes:
Wearing kimono and dressing as maiko or geisha by tourists is encouraged in Japan as a way of sharing and promoting this unique cultural institution; during our trip I wanted to learn more about how their makeup and wardrobe was worn and to improve my understanding of kimono dressing. This was a fascinating experience; the makeup and hairstyling took about an hour and the stylists talked us through what each step was and how it worked. Once done we were dressed in what felt like a whirlwind of ties, clips, and fabric that could only be described as an intense form of swaddling. Sketch was allowed to watch, and his observing paired with my experience of how each item went on, in what order, and how they tied around my body came in very handy when making my Kaoru Kamiya artbook costume several years later. Professional maiko have very specific combinations of items they wear that designate their rank, the time of year, and the event they are going to, including how much of their lips are red, the length and type of their hair accessories, how much white vs. red is in their kimono collar, their hairstyle, etc. Per Kyoto's rules regulating this type of dress-up, our wardrobes were required to be a mixup of these distinguishing markers so we would not be confused for real maiko. Therefore, while we were allowed to select our hikizuri kimono, darari obi, and accessories from their collection, our options were purposefully chosen to contradict each other when put together.

Once dressed, Majodere, Scarlet and I were instructed in how to hold and tuck the kimono when walking, how to carry various objects, and most difficult, how to walk in okobo shoes! We also learned how to hold and pose with fans, parasols, and other accessories; my dance training came in handy when being asked to hold and maintain uncomfortable poses. After about an hour in the studio we were sent out into the wilds of Gion to take photos, practice our walking, posing, and general Maiko mannerisms. It was a lot of fun to feel like a part of the fabric of the old city in our traditional attire, and our cosplaying experience certainly prepared us well for the onslaught of people who asked to take photos with us. While I assumed it was apparent that we were only dressed up as maiko, I couldn't help but wonder if anyone we passed by was oblivious enough to think we were real, especially from the back. After a full hour walking Gion in our challenging outfits, we returned to the studio exhausted and disgustingly hot - regular clothes never felt so appealing!

Photoshoot Pics: