In the area known as Hakata’s old town, which is rich in temples and shrines, various community events are held during autumn under the collective name “Akihaku.” These events let you enjoy the culture and history of Hakata in the fall season. Among these, what caught our attention was an experience that allows you to transform into a Hakata Geisha. Wearing a Hakata-ori obi and traditional Japanese makeup, you get to immerse yourself fully in the role.
The Meeting Point and Preparation
The gathering point is Dekimachi Park, near the “Hakata Sennen no Mon,” a welcome gate that leads you into the historic area filled with cultural properties. Having made a reservation a few days in advance online, I was nervous but also looking forward to the day.
The makeup is done by a professional hair and makeup artist, Madoka Ideguchi, who also teaches these skills. She has even won a national championship in bridal makeup and kimono dressing. Under her skilled hands, you feel like you’re being transformed completely. As she casually chats with you, she skillfully applies makeup to your face, ears, neck, and even your back. It seems difficult to finish it uniformly in white without unevenness or wrinkles just by looking at it. Real geishas are said to finish this by themselves…
When you look back into the mirror, a stranger with white makeup and crimson accents on the eyes and lips stares back at you. While still in awe, the makeup artist proceeds to put on a wig, and suddenly a “geisha-like figure” stares back, looking just as bewildered.
The final step is putting on the kimono. This time, it’s a “Tomesode,” a formal kimono with shorter sleeves worn by married women. The black beautifully complements the white and red makeup, creating an elegant and poised look. After tightening the Hakata-ori obi, the transformation into a Hakata Geisha is complete.
I couldn’t help but smile at my beautiful reflection in traditional attire. While this alone was enough to satisfy me, a professional photoshoot awaited outside. Before this experience, I was quite nervous about walking around the town in a geisha outfit, but now I could walk with newfound confidence, almost like an actress.
The photoshoot began with advice from the cameraman and a Japanese dance teacher on poses and expressions. Tips like “Smile without showing your teeth” and “Tilt your head slightly instead of keeping it straight” were shared, all of which could come in handy in the future. The experience was fresh and new, and the photoshoot ended before I knew it. My friend, who accompanied me, captured many moments, making it a highly recommended activity to do with partners or friends.
After the photoshoot, I changed back into my own clothes and removed the makeup, marking the end of the experience. Though I felt a bit disappointed as if some magic had worn off, the overall three-hour experience, from gathering to finishing, was a delightful and transformative journey. It provided a precious opportunity to interact with professionals in hair and makeup, photography, and Japanese dance. It will certainly be a memory to cherish for a lifetime.
Event detail: Fukuoka Now Experience the Art of Hakata Geisha
10/28 (Sat.), 29 (Sun.), 11/2 (Thu.), 3 (Fri., hol.), 5 (Sun.), 11 (Sat.), 12 (Sun.)