17th August 2018: Gold & Oiran {Japan, summer 2018}

Last year I decided to take a maiko photoshoot and it was fun, so when this year I found something similar, I decided to take the plunge. In this case, it was not a maiko, but an oiran [花魁], high-ranking courtesans with flashier clothes and more expensive kimono and accessories. I timed this to be the day after the Gozan no Okuribi, and my appointment was at 1 pm, although the website advised you to be around half an hour earlier.

I woke up feeling much better than the previous day, and after leaving the hotel the first thing I did was visit Mikane Jinja [御金神社], a small temple that had at some point come under my radar because it has a golden torii. This was, again by luck, very close to my hotel.

Torii gate painted in glittery golden paint

After that I took the underground to go to the Higashiyama / Keage area, where my photo studio was. There are also a few things to see around there, so I got off at Keage Station and the first thing I saw was Nejirimanpo [ねじりまんぽ], a Spiral Brick Tunnel, also called “Twisted tunnel”. I walked across, of course.

Entrance to a tunnel made of bricks. The bricks seem to be built in a spiral, and not straight

Afterwards I found myself at the complex formed by Tosho-gu [東照宮] and Konchi-in [金地院]. Tosho-gu is dedicated to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.

A Buddhist temple with lots of bonsai pines in front of it

I continued into the temple complex and saw Nanzen-ji [南禅寺], a grand temple.

The main building of a Buddhist temple with an incese brazier in front of it

And then I stumbled onto Suirokaku [水路閣], which is, of all things, an aqueduct! Furthermore, it is still in use.

Aqueduct made out of brick

My next stop was Saisho-in [最勝院].

A Shinto purifying fountain

Then it was almost time for my appointment, so I headed towards Studio Esperanto Oiran Taiken [studio-esperanto 花魁體驗], which was pretty much amazing.

Studio Esperanto front shop

While considerably more expensive than the maiko photo shoot, but the truth is, it seems less standardised and way more professional in a way, relaxed in the other… maybe it is the fact that you get to choose more is what makes it unique to you – also I am happy to report that I could do it with my contacts in, so that was way more enjoyable. The whole thing was like a dream – it reminded me a little of the experience you get when you go to Swallowtails, a lot of people are trying their best to make you feel welcome. In this case you choose a kimono and two different covers, called uchikake, which are super heavy because they are embroidered with metal thread.

The first thing I did was to take off my clothes and put on a white “underwear” robe. I could choose a lot of things – make up style, colours, wig, nails, hairstyle to a point, eyelashes… it is very participative. After make-up, you choose the kimono and the obi – which is the real thing, a long one that they tie around you. For the photo shoot itself, you feel like a rock star for real. They put the uchikake on you, they help you with the poses, and they take a lot of pictures for you to choose which ones you want printed into a book -For the plan I bought, 25,000 ¥ you get five printed pictures in a book and can buy the rest of them on a CD (which was 10,000 extra, but in my case, way worth it, as I got 50 pictures) – one day I would love to do the VIP experience, that’d be cool, but I guess I’ll just settle for entertaining repeating a similar plan with the blue background.

Collage of a person in oiran outfit. The kimono is decorated with pine needles embroidered in gold, and cranes. The person is wearing wig with long red hair.

While I was waiting for the pictures to be done, I decided to have a walk around the area. I saw the Biwako Sosui Kinenkan [琵琶湖疏水記念館 ], the Lake Biwa Canal Museum, from the outside.

Fountain with a crane inbetween the flow

I thought I might check out the zoo, but the price made me decide against it, and after turning a corner I found myself, surprisingly, at Heian Jingu [平安神宮 ].

Bridge leading up to a huge torii gate painted vermillion

I remembered there was a conbini next to the daitorii, so I went there to have some lunch, and then walked back to the Keage area, to have another look at the temple complex and Jishi-in [慈氏院] (probably. There was some construction going on and this might have been a smaller temple).

A Buddhist temple through the wooden gate

After I had my pictures (and still not quite believing it), I decided to walk down to Gion, as the path would take me down the river.

A shot of the Kyoto canal, with weeping willows hanging over it

I ended up at Yasaka Jinja [八坂神社].

Vermillion gate that marks the entrance to a shrine up a flight of stairs

Then I walked into the actual Gion [祇園] area. It was more than crowded, which killed the exploring drive.

Wooden houses in the sun, the wood is dark

And here is when I totally forgot that I wanted to go see Fushimi Inari Taisha by night and went back to the hotel 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。. I guess I was a bit more tired than I had previously thought, because I did not remember that until I was getting on a train the following there.