October 3, 2016
by Mayu Kuwahara, Karen Takeda, Yuri Nonaka
Why people are attracted to Maiko
The Gion district in Kyoto is one of the famous places where you can spot a Maiko. These places are called “Hanamachi.” On Hanamachi street, if you are lucky, you will have a chance to see maiko in the early or late evening. You would probably fall in love with their beauty. Especially, the contrast of their pure white skin and the vivid red lips; it attracts many people irrespective of their age or gender. Some girls yearn for being such a beautiful maiko, and I was one of them.
Longing to be a Maiko
Why do Japanese girls want to be a Maiko?
When I was 15 years old, I watched a TV documentary about how a girl became a maiko in Kyoto. The protagonist was a 15-year-old-girl who looked normal, and yet she really yearned to be a maiko, the same as me. In the program she said that she wanted to live in the hierarchy, the mysterious world which cannot be seen easily, and the world with traditional conventions. Also, she felt a special attraction for living just next to the things that have been handed down since olden times. When I heard that, I realized these she and other girls who want to be maiko were meant to live in Hanamachi. At the same time, I was moved to tears and thought what a nice thing it would be to master the skills of a maiko!
Maiko Makeup Step by Step
There is one step to becoming a Maiko in Kyoto and anyone can become a maiko by following this way of make up.
1. Soften the “bintsuke abura,”* which is waxy/oily undercoat, in your hands and apply liberally all over the face, neck and top of the chest. This method is used as the foundation for the “shironuri,” the white base. The workmanship of shironuri is different depending on the way bintsuke abura is applied. Therefore, this part is very important.
2. Dilute the “neri oshiroi”* in a dish and dissolve it in water. Then, paint it over the same areas where you applied the bintsuke abura with a special brush called “itahake.”* Use a sponge to blend the makeup. In this part of the process, maiko apply the make-up to their own neck while using a mirror, or the maiko will help each other to apply this coat. After that, apply the “kona oshiroi”* over your face and press by using a puff.
There are two meanings of neck make-up; one is to make the neck look slim and the other is to wish the maiko will perform well. For Japanese people, showing the nape and neck line is thought to be erotic.
3. Dust “tonoko”* onto the upper half of the face with a brush. Do the same for cheeks.
4. Draw the eyebrow with the black eyebrow pencil. Then, add red lining to the black eyebrows.*
5. Make a small diamond shape on the outer corner of the eyelid with red lining color. These are called “mebari”* in Japanese. Then, use a cotton swab to bring excess color from the diamond underneath the lash line.
6. Use black liquid eyeliner to create a fine line and apply a second or third line to create a thicker line.
7. Put red lining color on the lips. Apply slightly higher than the natural lip line. Maiko who only have one year of experience use different ways of makeup. To show their loveliness, only their lower lips are painted with red lining color.
Become a Maiko
If you were over 16 years old, it might be too late to be maiko, but what if you could turn yourself into a maiko for a single day? There are many places where you can experience becoming a maiko in Kyoto. Turning yourself into a maiko is one of the most popular activities for tourists and girls who yearned once to become a maiko in Kyoto. Unlike other activities, you can get an impressive and fun experience thorough traditional Japanese culture. If you are in Kyoto, maiko makeover experience is a must!
* bintsuke abura : Waxy/Oily undercoat
* neri oshiroi: White face paint
* kona oshiroi: White face power
* tonoko Rouge: Pink/Red power
* mebari/beni Red Lining Color: Red cream
* itahake: Wide brush