Now you don’t even have to be in Japan to spend time with a geisha. 

Japan, like a lot of countries around the world right now, is taking measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus, with people being asked to stay indoors and businesses continuing to close or shorten their operating hours.

One sector that’s been dealt a blow under these restrictions is the geisha industry, which relies on entertaining clients in person and often in close quarters inside restaurants. However, geisha have a long history of adapting to societal changes to keep their traditions alive over hundreds of years, and now one geisha group is adapting to the current climate by offering to entertain customers via online drinking parties.

The new online service is being provided by geisha from the Hakone Yumoto Performing Arts Association in Kanagawa Prefecture and Tokyo-based web integration services company Gaiax. The Hakone Yumoto geisha group, who usually entertain customers at local ryokan inns, haven’t been able to work since March, after reservations at the inns were cancelled from mid-February, leaving them with no current income.

President of the association, Mikiko Tachi, says the out-of-work geisha are still rehearsing in order to preserve their craft, but with events like their upcoming “Meet Geisha” show for tourists on 22 May now cancelled, they decided to look for another way to perform and connect with tourists. 

▼ Mikiko Tate

Hence the new “Geisha Online Drinking Party” was born, which Tate says is an excellent way to reach not only existing customers, but also international tourists and the younger generation. Set to be held every Friday and Saturday from 9-9:30 p.m. and 9:30-10:00 p.m., the 30-minute drinking party costs 2,000 yen (US$18.55) and is open to a maximum of six people at a time.

▼ We’ll have to wait and see if the online drinking parties will include parlour games like this one.

To participate, simply make a reservation and complete payment on their website. Successful applicants will be notified of the Zoom URL by email.

The group says they plan to provide further English-language support and continue their online parties with people well into the future, even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

It’s nice to see the famously secretive and traditional world of Japanese geisha adapting with the times in order to ensure their customs survive not just the coronavirus but the new normal that lies beyond it. That’s something we’ll definitely raise a glass and say “kanpai!” (“cheers!”) to!

Related: Meet Geisha website
Source, images: PR Times

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