Japan Spring Edition: Becoming a maiko

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The sakuras have fallen in Kyoto. But the bloom does not stop in flowers alone.

In a flick of a brush, the magic begins. I closed my eyes and felt the gentle hands of my make-up artist, Saki, as she painted the white foundation called Neri Shirako (oshiroi) unto the canvas—my neck and face.

She asked me, “What style do you want? Cute or mature?” I replied, “cute!” And so I felt the strokes of her brush that created a straight line on my eyebrows. She added a pink foundation (also known as neri shirako) for a rosy glow on the cheeks and another flick on the eyelid. To top it off, she put on a red lipstick making the lips look thinner.

My hair was divided into three sections. I was wondering how they’re going to do it. Lo and behold, Saki puts on a slightly heavy wig. In a snap of a finger, I opened my eyes. I did not recognize the lady in the mirror. It was not Izah anymore but Izakura

The masterpiece won’t be complete without the colorful kimonos. And so I was ushered to the costume room, where I was asked to choose from different designs. I chose the pink one.  Layer by layer, the kimono was put on me. Boy, it was heavy! The outfit weighed 3 kilos. Thus, I walked with small steps.

From paper dolls to real dress-up games, Gion Aya transformed me into a maiko–but just for photography purposes. A real maiko in Kyoto is an apprentice entertainer that performs songs and dances in Kyoto. But of course, I didn’t do any dance or song number.  🙂

Since it was drizzling outside, the outdoor photoshoot became indoor. Nonetheless, it was still fun to work with the team of Gion Aya. They have a complete studio set-up. The photographer taught me the basic poses of a maiko.

Aside from the studio shots, I was also given time to shoot with my own camera at the courtyard of Gion Aya. The garden gave contrast to the red umbrella.

Two hours of wonderful memories were immortalized through photographs. And these make a Japan trip–priceless!


  1.   A CD containing your photos
  2.  Three (3) Printouts in a standalone album
  3.  Two (2) wallet size laminated photographs

Thank you so much to the cool team of GION AYA and Go Voyagin for making this maiko make-over possible.

Want to have your own maiko moment in Kyoto? Book your trip here. Booking a maiko makeover is easy as 1-2-3 as you can pay it using paypal. They will readily give you confirmation together with directions. But here’s how I got to their studio.


  1. Take the bus as it is nearer than taking a train. From Kyoto Hana Hostel, take bus #202 or #206.
  2. Alight at Bishamoncho in Gion. From that point, walk towards the traffic light then turn right then another left at the corner then another right towards Gion Aya.
  3. GOOGLE MAP is your friend. Using the streetview will also be helpful. But of course, you need a pocket wifi to that. Pocket wifi is a must when traveling to Japan as wifi is not free.