Stroll Around Kyoto (京都) in a Kimono (着物)

Have you ever wanted to stroll around Kyoto in a kimono? I have always wanted to do so seeing many tourists walk in beautiful kimonos sightseeing around beautiful temples and shrines of Kyoto. I always thought to myself that I must do this at least once while I am in Japan.

20130422-140909.jpg20130422-112430.jpg

Kyoto is definitely the most famous place in Japan to do kimono fitting since it is an old capital with numerous wonderful old shrines and temples. A lot of Japanese traditional things that pop up in your mind when you think of ‘Japan’ or see in movies are here; for instance, Maiko, Geisha and other forms of arts, traditions, sweets and so many others. As you may know, I have done Maiko transformation before and it was such a great experience. You could never get closer to a Japanese traditional culture than this. 😉  This time, I wanted to simply wear a kimono and walk around Kyoto city, especially to visit Kiyomizudera temple (清水寺)and take photos for memories.20130422-110309.jpg

I finally did it and I had a great time. It was worthwhile. As of how to do kimono rental (着物レンタル)in Kyoto, very easy!

HOW:

  •          First, plan you trip to Kyoto.

Leave a day or at least half a day in case you don’t have time for this experience since you obviously want to take a lot of photos while you’re wearing kimono. If you stay in a ryokan (旅館) within Kyoto, some kimono rental stores may allow you to return the kimono the next day at your hotel. But, in case you stay in a nearby city, you must return the kimono by the designated time at the store (until 5pm in my case). Keep this in mind when you plan your visit.

  •          Select store and decide the places you want to visit.

For this, you want to choose a kimono rental store close to your hotel or tourist attractions that you want to visit. Especially when you’re wearing a kimono and walk around in kimono shoes, you want to be as close as you can to the places you are interested in.

          Recommended kimono rental stores

  1. Yume Kyoto (夢京都)– I visited this store for kimono fitting. It is located right next to the entrance of Yasaka shrine (八坂神社)in Gion (祇園)district (central Kyoto) and only around 15 minutes on foot to the famous Kiyomizudera. Yume Kyoto also has another branch near Todaiji temple. They have kimono rental plans from 3,500 to 5,250 yen depending on the type of kimono. For 3,500 yen plan, you cannot choose kimono but for the 4,000 and 5,000 yen plan, you can choose kimono, bags and accessories as well. I liked their kimono choices. They also give free Tabi (kimono socks) for free and you can bring home as souvenirs.
  2. Okamoto (岡本)– This store is located in Kiyomizudera area which can be convenient for people who wants to visit this temple. I remember seeing in just on the bottom of Kiyomizudera!
  3. Yume Yakata 〔夢館)– The cheapest plan of this place is 2,500 yen which is pretty ideal. This is also the place I did my Maiko transformation.

In addition, if you are a traveler from abroad with limited time to plan, you may opt for a package tour for this kind of kimono experience. Many are sold within the city such as at big JR stations and travel companies. Some are also sold in websites for tourists from abroad. See this discount tour for a great 1 day plan with hotel pick up, English speaking guide and admission fees included (Input code L2AI9 when downloading their app to get free credits! –apple, android). 🙂

  •     Make a reservation

Make sure you reserve in advance so you can be sure you will get a place and time you want.

20130422-112359.jpg

PLAN & PRICE:

Usually, the price ranges from around 3,500 to 5,250 yen for Kimono rental. However, depends on the type and prints of kimono, it can also be much more expensive or less expensive if you are very lucky. At Yume Kyoto, I chose 5,250 yen kimono and got my hair done for 1,500 yen. So in total, it was 6,750 yen. Unlike Maiko transformation, you need to do your own makeup. After you are done dressing up, you are free to walk around in kimono and return it at the store or at your hotel depending on the store’s policy. Beware not to spill anything on your kimono. You may need to pay for the cleaning fee if you do so.

20130422-112355.jpg

PROCESS:

  •           Go to the store at your reserved time and tell your name.
  •          They will lead you into a room full of kimonos. Choose a kimono of your choice, then choose obi (similar to a big belt). In my case that I chose 5,250 yen plan, I could choose a rope which is a layer inside the kimono, too. You can see my reddish collar inside my kimono which is not a regular white layer.
  •           Then, they will start dressing you up. Starting from the rope, inside layer, then kimono. After that, they will tie you with some more ropes and Obi. And then, you’re done! It took less than 30 minutes for me.
  •           After you’re done dressing up, they will lead you into a hair section where you can choose a hairstyle that fits you the most.20130422-110338.jpg

The whole process took about 40 minutes for me.

TIPS/ADVICE:

It is important to bring a friend to take photos for you. I was lucky as my friend’s friends join us with their professional cameras. So, we got very good photos. Also, prepare to smile a lot because so many people will ask to take pictures with you or try to snap a photo of you.20130422-112409.jpg

Last but not least, CHECK THE WEATHER before you decide to do this. It is hard to predict the weather as you may want to reserve in advance but the day won’t be as fun if it’s raining, so try to avoid it!

And…of course, ENJOY! 😉

20130422-112417.jpg

At the ladders in the front entrance of Kiyomizudera

20130422-112403.jpg

In front of Yasaka shrine

20130422-110320.jpg

We met two tourists dressed up as Maiko-san, too.

Big thanks to two amazing photographers Kenichi Sanguan-ngern & Nichchima Anongjanya.

CUP NOODLES MUSEUM – Make your own Cup Ramen!

20130306-103933.jpg

This museum is the coolest museum ever! Everyone who visits here would definitely enjoy the experience at this cup noodle museum. This museum was established by Nissin, a company that produces many of our favorite instant noodles such as Chicken Ramen, Cup Noodles, UFO, and even the space ramen for astronauts!!

The inventor of instant noodles is Ando Momofuku, one of the Japanese heroes! He was well-known all over the world as Mr.Noodles. His story is inspriring. I really enjoyed learning about how he created this invention very much. I have heard of him many times before since he was a PhD graduate from Ritsumeikan University, a mother university of my university and Nissin gives scholarship called Ando Momofuku scholarship to our students. But I’ve never really knew who he was and it was very interesting to hear about his stories!

20130306-104108.jpg

I live very close to this museum which is located in Minato-mirai, Yokohama but I’ve never really got a chance to visit since it is always full and I couldn’t make my own cup noodles every time I went there. This time, we went early in the morning around 10.30 and there was not many people so we got in a paid 500 yen for the tickets. Then we went upstairs to reserve a session for making our very own CUP NOODLES! We decided to go for the cup noodles and not chicken ramen since Chiken ramen takes a lot of time making it from the scratch. And cup noodles are fun!

So, let’s talk about how to make your own cup noodles!

First, after getting our 整理券 (sei-ri-ken), we waited a while and went up there when it was our time (11:30). We got in line and paid 300 yen for a blank cup, wash our hands and then we were led to our seats where we can decorate our cup noodles.

20130306-103940.jpg

It didn’t take very long to finish drawing and painting our cups. It was very fun! Here is the front part of my cup noodles.

20130306-104041.jpg

When we finished, we took our cups and lined up to get the cups filled. First, we put the noodles into the cup! This one is another one of Ando Momofuku’s big innovations.  He thought of how to put the ramen in the cup in a good shape and he came up with the idea of putting the cup over the ramen, then roll it over so that the ramen goes in nicely. We got to experience this as in the pictures!

20130306-113714.jpg 20130306-104053.jpg

After putting in the noodles, it was time to choose flavor and toppings! There are many choices of stuff to put in but we can only choose 4 toppings with 1 flavor (normal cup noodles, spicy tamato, curry, seafood!). I chose the original flavor with shrimp, eggs and others. 🙂

20130306-104121.jpg

After filling in the flavor and the toppings, it’s time to put the cover and the package! The first put on the cover and then a plastic bag that became flat and stick to the cup after heating it up.

20130306-113628.jpg 20130306-104130.jpg

And then…Tadaaa! We put our cup noodles inside a plastic bag and pumped some air inside and then it’s done. 🙂

20130306-104101.jpg

After making our own cup noodles, we went to look around the museum for exhibitions. It was very cool to see the development of instant noodles from decades ago. I found many that I absolutely love including instant ramen in other countries as well!

20130306-104020.jpg 20130306-104153.jpg

20130306-104145.jpg 20130306-104027.jpg

The room next to the instant noodles showroom is Momofuku Theatre. There, we watched the origin of Momofuku’s life and how he invented this instant noodle in a cartoon version. It was pretty impressive! After failing everything with only his house left for him and his family, he still able to find ideas right out of the kitchen when he saw his wife making tempura which sparked the idea of frying the ramen and then put in water again.

We got to see the model of his house where all the ideas happened too. 😉

20130306-104114.jpgAfter that, we saw many stories on the wall in chronological order. Apparently, Ando Momofuku san lived a very long and happy life after all his hard work and died when he was 96!! We got much information about instant noodles industry…It’s unbelivable how so people people in the world are consuming cup noodles these days.

20130306-103949.jpg 20130306-113636.jpg 20130306-113648.jpg

Having seen all the exhibitions, we went up to get some lunch. There is a cup noodles park right beside the restaurant.

20130306-103956.jpg

The restaurant was quite fun as well. I never imagine a restaurant in a museum would be like this. In front of the restaurant, there is a Tuk Tuk (three-wheel car), the famous vehicle from my homeland-Thailand. Inside the restaurant, everything is decorated as if it was Thailand or somewhere in South East Asia. I have to admit that it really felt like home. We had a few cups of noodles-Tom Yum noodles, Mi goreng, etc. *happy*

20130306-104003.jpg 20130306-113655.jpg

20130306-104012.jpg

We can go out to the balcony and see the view as well!

Don’t forget to visit this cup noodles museum in Yokohama if you have a chance. You won’t regret it! 🙂

More information on the Website –> Click here

For interesting discounted day tour of Yokohama from Klook, click here! (Also, get free credits from their app download & input L2AI9 to get bonus credits)

Maiko Transformation experience! – FYI and Steps

Last year, I finished school half a year early so I spent half a year finding job and traveling. I decided to go to Kyoto with my friend. Kyoto is my all time most favorite city in Japan. The city is beautiful and full of shrines and temples and reminders of Japan’s old capital while it is modern and friendly city at the same time. A lot of foreigners like to visit this city for sightseeing. There are just so many places to see in Kyoto.

That was probably the 5th time I visit Kyoto. This time I decided to do something a bit different from my other visits–I transformed myself into Maikoさん while my friend transformed into Juni (meaning 12) Heian princess that has to wear 12 layers of clothes weighing around 20 KGs! We had such a great time and I did film a video about my experience and put it on YouTube as well-Check it out!

First, let’s talk about some basic Maiko FYI!

  • What’s Maiko? Geisha? And Geiko?

Maiko is an apprentice of Geisha who is going through arts training for about 5 years. ‘Mai’ means dance and ‘ko’ means child. Thus, maiko’s direct meaning is a ‘dancing child’, an apprentice of Geisha before becoming a real Geisha later on.

Geisha is a woman who is trained in the Japanese traditional arts such as dancing, singing, and others. Literally, ‘gei’ means art and ‘sha’ means person so in this case, it is ‘the person of art’. As you may have seen in the movie ‘The memoirs of Geisha’, Geisha dances in traditional Japanese style and was trained for many years since they were little girls.

Geiko is almost the same as Geisha. The only differences may be their location, customs, and traditions. The word Geiko mostly represents Geisha in Kyoto but the word Geisha generally refers to Geisha around Tokyo area. However, the word Geisha is more popular for foreigners and become the name for Geisha in general (because of the movie? 😉 ).

  • Appearances/differences of Maiko and Geisha/Geiko

The difference betweet maiko and geisha is the hair, make up, and kimono. I prefer Maiko since the make up looks a lot prettier (for me). I won’t go into details with the appearances but basically, Maiko’s lips and eye makeup are more red while Geisha’s eyes do not have red lines and paler red lips. Also, maiko’s face is whiter than Geisha’s. These appearances also differ with the rankings- Junior Maiko, Senior Maiko, Junior Geisha, and Senior Geisha.

  • Are Maiko and Geisha prostitutes?

I remember something about this from the movie but had doubts whether it’s true. So, I did some research. It is said that Maiko and Geisha are NOT prostitutes by any means. This profession is rooted deeply within the traditional arts and is non-sexual in any way. According to some source, they are believed to be prostitutes because of the misunderstanding by the US service men during World War II. And probably the movies and tales that are told and misinterpreted. However, these days many prostitutes do dress up as Geisha to attract customers.

  • Why is Kyoto famous for Maiko and Geisha?

That is a good question. I always think of Kyoto every time I think about Maiko, Geiko, and Geisha. Apparently, there were Maikos and Geishas around Tokyo as well. They were just in different location and less elaborate. According to some sources, they are called ‘Hankyogu’, which means ‘half price’ or ‘half charged’. They disappeared quickly leaving the title to the famous Geishas in Kyoto.

My experience – How to do this?

20121117-213556.jpg

As of how to do this, I will show you some easy steps and guides you can do. I was very lucky and got to do in a really great discounted price. The experience was more than I can describe. It was worth every penny. Here are some steps!

1) Plan you trip to Kyoto. Leave about 3 hours for this experience. The make up and dressing up took about 2 hours for me.

2) Find a studio near your hotel or the area of your choice. >> I did this in Gion since it is the place where REAL maikos work and it’s one of my favorite areas in Kyoto. A perfect setting for a stroll in Kimono as MAIKO san! This is the studio I went to has branches in other famous areas in Kyoto such as Kingakuji shrine, Kiyomizu shrine, etc.

Some links to the studios I found – Yumekoubou (the studio I went to), Maiko Henshin, YumeYakata, Katufumi.

3) Book a plan at the studio. >;>; There are many plans such as studio plan, strolling plan, and others. Prices differ according to the plan. Also, you can choose to request for a professional cameraman or if you have your own camera and a friend to help, you can do that yourself as well. You may also choose to add extra CDs, extra shots and others. For me, I brought a friend to help taking all the videos and pictures. I also requested 20 studio shots with a professional cameraman. More than that, I choose the walking plan so I got to go out for a walk as Maiko san in Gion area and my friends took all the pictures for me. The CDs I ordered came a month later in the mail. All of this was about 12,000 yen for me which was very worthy!

4) Go to the studio. >> In my case, since I took the studio shots and a walking plan, the process takes about 3 hours. First, make up. Then, kimono. Then, put on a wig. And you’re done! When this is all done, they’ll take you to a studio and a camera man will take photos for you. Then, someone will take you to walk outside. The shoes are the ones Maiko really wears so it was quite hard to walk on but I was able to get the grip at the end.

20121117-214108.jpg 20121117-214051.jpg 20121117-214057.jpg 20121117-214113.jpg

Choosing Kimono was very fun. Each piece is very expensive! I choose the red one with beautiful prints on it.

20121117-214104.jpg 20121117-214041.jpg 20121117-214038.jpg

5. Enjoy >> If you choose the walking plan or any other plan, be prepared that some tourists will ask to take photos with you. 🙂 I highly recommend to take a friend with you for this experience because you will surely want extra photos.

20121117-214046.jpg

Here are my studio photos taken by a photographer. The CD and a small postcard with my picture on it are sent to my house. I could not believe I looked like that day. It was great fun. The Kimono and the shoes gave me a bit of a hard time but I enjoyed this experience very much.

20121117-214126.jpg20121117-214117.jpg20121117-214121.jpg

As for my friend, she transformed into juni, a princess in Heian era. This is very expensive to do and very rare these days. It was quite expensive but since she is into Japanese history, it was something she couldn’t miss. 😉

20121117-214029.jpg 20121117-214033.jpg

Don’t forget to check out my video on the process of Maiko Transformation too! ^^