A Flash in Japan

courtesy Cathy Gonzalez

Tokyo photo op: Here's a chance to see how you look in full geisha garb, makeup and all.

Before the credits for Memoirs of a Geisha started rolling, I was planning my next trip: It had to be Japan, and it had to include a geisha makeover. Studios in Kyoto offer geisha and samurai photo ops, but there's only one in Tokyo--Studio Katsura.

Soft music played while I leafed through photos of the studio's vintage-kimono collection. After much consideration, I decided to be a maiko (apprentice geisha) and chose an embroidered kimono with a hand-painted sash.

Once I'd slipped into split-toe tabi socks, the photographer, who doubled as the makeup artist, tucked my hair into a netted cap. He applied white paint to my face and neck, leaving bare the area just below the nape, which the Japanese once considered the most erotic part of the body. I felt anything but graceful when he needed to give a tug here and a yank there to get the kimono on.

I quickly got into character, smiling demurely from behind a paper fan. Before I could embarrass myself further, I was led into a courtyard garden that resembled an ancient city. As I posed on a large boulder next to a pond and a miniature bridge, I swear I saw my name flash on the big screen. 011-81-3/3470-0027, henshin-maiko.com, $129, including three 5x7 portraits.


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