How to be Geisha-fied
The process for turning oneself into the stereotypical representation of Japanese womanhood (white face, red lips, crazy, stiff hair, and yards of fabric wound around you over and over) is, expectedly, a long process. For our Maiko-han goodness, Ava and I got to wake up at dawn, pretty much, and trudge to a nearby salon. The lady who owns the salon is the grandmother of one of the girls I teach. This girl also happens to be incredibly talented at fan dancing.
But I digress. We got to the salon at eight o’clock am. The time was partially because, of the people they were trussing up that day, we’d be dancing first, but also because it just takes awhile.
First on the agenda was to style our hair into traditional 日本髪 (Nihon-gami) style. This is characterized by excessively poofy hair. Ours was bolstered by what looked like balls of cut-up hair netting, but I wonder what they used way back when, yanno, when there wasn’t so much polyester and nylon available.
For my part, while my hair was being tugged and hair-sprayed into submission, I was also getting the make-up treatment. As most of you hopefully know, Japanese people find pale skin to be very beautiful. I’m thinking this stems from similarities with western aristocratic culture–the paler you were, the less you worked outside, so it meant you had lots of money. In any case, to achieve the pale look of geisha, they take a thick off-white paste, mix it with water, and then paint it (seriously, with a paint brush) over your face, down to your collarbone, over your back to your shoulder blades, and even on your hands! It’s pretty intense.
Then they add red eyeliner, black eyeliner, and shiny red lipstick to finish the image.
For Ava and me, this first half of the process took about an hour.
Following that is the kimono putting-on dealio. For a real silk kimono and the big obi, this is not something you can do on your own. Really. There’s no way. (I can put on a yukata by myself, but I’d be completely lost tying the obi the way the ladies did here.) The goal, strangely enough, is to make you as straight as possible. That whole zaftig (I learned a new word!) is just nuttin-doin’. I must’ve had at least four layers of padding over my chest, under my chest, and in the small of my back to even out my decidedly un-Japanese shape.
Once the padding is accomplished, they can start to tie you up.
While in a yukata, I have to consciously remember to move like a subtle Japanese woman–short, shuffling steps, knees touching, toes facing inward like a duck. Not so when you’ve been properly dressed in a kimono. You’re held in so tight, there’s no other way to walk! Ava and I actually got a little frustrated because it’s so slow. And lemme tell you, getting into and out of cars is an adventure. And also driving, as you don’t want to smoosh the obi.
But, COME ON, is the end result worth it, or what?