The breakfast was still very Japanese but had something very valuable: hot chocolate. With that they had already conquered me. Also, I had no jetlag, so I had slept well and I felt great.
Visit with the Kyoto tour
The first stop of the day was the golden pavilion (kinkaku-ji), which is fascinating both for the pavilion itself and for the beautiful Japanese gardens around and its tea room. I left with my mouth open.
Then we went to Nijo Castle, the impressive fortress that the Tokugawa had in Kyoto for when they had to pay their respects to the Emperor. We went around the outside and saw the security system (it has some irons that make the floor sound when you step on it) and then we entered (they don’t allow photos inside, I’m sorry) to see the different rooms where people would wait and the shogun received (hidden door for a score of warriors with drawn swords included) and in which he and his women slept. They also told us how they distributed the space and how the wives and courtesans were.
After that we visited the sanctuary of Heian, with a beautiful garden that, unfortunately, at this time of the year is not at its peak (too cold for cherry trees and water lilies) but that’s still the most impressive.
We ate in a fantastic restaurant, beautiful, with good views and a great meal, after which the afternoon was free and I went running to a very special plan.
Experience in Maica maiko plan:
Yes, it’s a very expensive tourist trap (7220 yen in total with taxes and box office rent) but a trap in which I fell delightfully. By the way, if you want to do with Maica, I recommend that you locate it on the map previously, because finding it can be a bit… complicated. In addition, the girls don’t understand English but in the end, between gestures, posters and some single words, we understood each other.
I chose the maico plan (Maico is a geisha apprentice, they differ in that the maico has natural hair and the back tie unbuttoned) because it was the cheapest and, why be fooled, visually there’s not much difference.
First you have to put the cameras in a separate box office, choose between twenty kimonos (if you choose a higher plan -I chose the cheapest one- you have more possibilities) and pay, after which you will undress and put on a kind of underwear that it goes under everything. These lockers for clothes and other personal effects are for payment.
Then they put the white base on your face and neck and paint you with the rest of the makeup, after which they put an inner kimono, infinity of girdles and the chosen kimono. The final sensation is like wearing a corset and you can’t move easily; going down the narrow, steep stairs is an odyssey.
Below, I made the official photo, included in the price (if you want more, or larger, you pay another plus) and, as I was alone, they made five more photos with my camera, after which they left me totally free to record and make me selfies. Everything inside the enclosure, of course, if you want to go out or walk down the street you also have to pay more. Even so, it was fun.
Then it is simply to take off your kimono, pick up your things and remove the makeup from your face. To remove make-up you are rubbed with a product and they give you a wet towel, but you have to dry it.
Another tour around Kyoto
After the experience, I searched for an open Wi-Fi network to contact some of my group and join them. I waited for them in the temple of Yasaka, that I saw all alone, and then we walked through Gion, where we discovered many things about the geishas and we saw a real maico. It’s difficult to catch them and they don’t usually allow themselves to take photos, in addition, they go so fast that, if you are not careful, you don’t have time to take the camera to make it.
The return by bus to the hotel was also an experience, and the subsequent ride to the mall was the same. Escalators don’t stop welcoming you, even if you have already climbed a few floors. It’s a little weird.