“As Sayuri was standing beneath the Cherry tree, speaking to the one man she loved but could not have,
a sprinkle of delicate pale pink petals fell upon them like snow…”
At this point, Sebastien GRABBED the remote control, interrupting the most beautiful moment of Memoirs of a Geisha to declare:
“STEFAN! One day, we too will become geisha!
THE NOMADIC BOYS: FAST FORWARD A FEW YEARS…
The Studio Geisha Cafe
Fast forward a few years and they find themselves in the unassuming Studio Geisha Cafe in Morishita, Suburbia Tokyo, ready for their own transformation and experience of a lifetime.
“50% of the customers are in fact Japanese men, mainly heterosexual, who simply want to transform into something completely different”.
Michiru, a former model/actress, set up the Studio Geisha Cafe with her husband to provide people the chance to live out their dreams. She’s used two Japanese men who wanted to be transformed. They were fortunate to be her first foreign male geisha.
Discovering extraordinary experiences
For those who have been following the Nomadic Boys, you will know that they love to seek out extraordinary experiences. One time they learned to pout and swim like mermaids on Boracay. So imagine their jubilation when they discovered geisha makeover in Tokyo.
Before proceeding any further, the Nomadic Boys want to make it clear this is not in any way intended to mock or poke fun at the Japanese geisha culture. Their intention is simply to discover more about it and celebrate this beautiful, fascinating and wonderful cultural facet of Japan.
History of Geisha
Geisha comes from two words, gei, and sha which translate to art person. The young geisha apprentice is called Meiko, meaning dance child. Historically, geisha are entertainers who perform various arts like classical music, dancing, and games. But the original geisha were, in fact, men not women!
The original geisha was male advisors and entertainers to their daimyo (feudal lords), dating back to the 1200s. They were tea connoisseurs, artists and gifted story tellers. The first female geisha didn’t appear until 1751 but grew so quickly in popularity that they soon outnumbered their male counterparts.
Today, there are 5 known (male geisha) in Japan according to Wikipedia (4 in Tokyo and 1 in Kyoto), like Senzo Sakuragawa.
Make that 7 if you include us…
Let us get in Formation!
The makeup transformation along with dressing up in the elaborate geisha kimonos took about 2 hours, plus another hour for the photo shoot.
1. First, they had to shave!
It goes without saying you need to shave before doing anything (much to Stefan’s reluctance):
2. Choosing our kimonos
The Studio Geisha Cafe has a selection of beautiful traditional kimonos to try on. Stefan chose his favorite color (mysterious purple) and Sebastien chose the more chic, classical black.
3. Putting on the geisha underwear
They had to undress to put on the hada-juban undergarment and the unique geisha pabi socks.
4. The wig fitting
Before makeup, the correct geisha wig had to be selected and fitted. The wig was then put aside and a layer of tape was taped to his head. Now he is ready for makeup.
5. Applying the geisha makeup
The Studio Geisha Cafe works with specialist artist Kyoko Matsushita, who has a lot of experience doing makeup for men (and women).
A special oil (bintsuke-abura) is applied, followed by a white mayu-tsubushi wax to hide the eyebrows and a few layers of foundation to hide beard shadow. A powder was then applied to set the foundation, followed by the shironuri white paste makeup along with red lipstick and eyeliner touches.
The shironuri white paste, so commonly associated with geisha, is a tradition from the days when there was no electricity. It was used to showcase a young beautiful face in the dark candle lit rooms.
6. Kimono…wigs…lights…and action!
After makeup, they were ready to put on their kimonos, have their wigs refitted and prepare the pouts for the cameras. Traditionally, teeth are hidden by Japanese girls when smiling as it’s regarded as impolite, which is why they cover their mouth when laughing. This suited the pouting Seby-Yakko just fine!
Wooing with red
An occasional flash of red from the undergarment is a subtle way to titillate: red is historically meant to drive Japanese men wild with passion, so geisha expose it every now and then, ever so coyly, to woo their audience.
Do you want to be a geisha?
If you too want to transform into a geisha, the Nomadic Boys highly recommend Michiru and her team at The Geisha Studio Cafe. They can also dress you up as a samurai and offer wedding makeovers for both men and women. Check out their Facebook page and Instagram gallery for more photos.
Prices for the geisha transformation at the Studio Geisha Cafe are:
- 16,000 yen ($150/£104) without makeup
- 23,500 yen ($220/£152) with makeup
- 15,000 yen ($140/£97) without makeup
- 20,000 yen ($187/£130) with makeup