(A quick note: I wasn't asked, pressured or paid to write this. I do, however, write about businesses for money on a regular basis - get in touch and I'll do it for you.)
Alright, so you're in Japan and you want to dress up in a kimono. There isn't exactly a shortage of places where you can do that. Just look at Kyoto. (And, I mean, you do want to look at Kyoto, it's a very pretty place.) Kimono rental abounds in Kansai, particularly in Kyoto, Osaka and Nara.
But have you ever considered cosplaying as a shrine maiden? Or as a samurai (one for the guys)? Or in a shorter, more modern kimono with a tutu? Then having professional photos taken, rather than just phone selfies?
These rarer costumes and quality shots can be found at Japanese Cosplay Photo, in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka. Close to America-mura and the Dotonbori river. It's where I went and found them - and not just because the studio's aircon was a blissful break from August's humidity.
How could a copywriter not be impressed by the Ronseal-esque name of Japanese Cosplay Photo? It's a no-nonsense name. You instantly know what you're in for. And 'cosplay' sounds so much more fun than just 'kimono rental', right?
The cosplay options have also extended from traditional kimonos and hakama to include videogame-themed costumes. I spotted a full Mario outfit in the changing room.
Naturally, I chose the short kimono in the end. Partly so we wouldn't spend hours rolling up a full-length kimono to match my height. It was also a vanity choice. With the amount of walking I've been doing around Osaka, these legs need showing off.
Thankfully I didn't have to try and dress myself. The lovely Sayaka acts as personal stylist, photographer and pose consultant on every shoot. She's got a great eye for detail, and occasionally stopped to fix and tweak bits of my outfit. Oops, I hadn't even noticed you could see up my skirt from there...
A variety of props adds that extra pizzazz to each photo. They range from traditional Japanese parasols and fans to an entire tea ceremony set. Standing there and smiling is fine, but brandishing a bunch of flowers (or a sword) makes for better results, I think.
The studio's impressively well equipped. Backdrops, stands, lighting, and loads more pro photography equipment makes the shots look awesome. That's not easy to do in a relatively small space. Proud to tell you I didn't trip over anything.
With Sayaka directing me, I managed to look like a butt-kicker...
...and also a little more mysterious...
...within the same photoshoot.
Here's another fun fact: apart from my undies, tinted moisturiser and a slash of lipstick, I own nothing I'm wearing in those pics. Not the hair accessories or eye makeup, even - it was all provided. Go in bare-faced and you can match your eyeshadow to your chosen outfit. And if you want to look super traditional but don't have the requisite jet black hair, they've got wigs.
I didn't go outside - in this heat? With this vampire skin? no thanks. But you can book longer outdoor sessions by asking in advance.
My shoot package included 10 high-quality photos on CD, and my favourite one was made into an A4 print. It even had a special 'flower' pattern effect around the edges. I was so proud of it that I went and bought a frame straight afterwards.