Photos:The impact of the coronavirus on Tokyo’s geishas | Hindustan Times
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Photos:The impact of the coronavirus on Tokyo’s geishas

Updated On Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Ikuko, the “big sister” of Tokyo’s Akasaka geisha district, came to the capital to seek her fortune in 1964, the year Tokyo first hosted the Olympics. But the novel coronavirus pandemic has made her fear for her centuries-old profession as never before. Though the number of geisha - famed for their witty conversation, beauty and skill at traditional arts - has been falling for years, Ikuko and her colleagues were without work for months due to Japan’s state of emergency and now operate under awkward social distancing rules. Engagements are down 95 percent, and come with new rules: no pouring drinks for customers or touching them even to shake hands, and sitting 2 metres apart. Masks are hard to wear with their elaborate wigs, so they mostly don’t.

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Koiku, who is a geisha, gets ready at Ikuko's home to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. "I thought it was a world you couldn't enter unless you started training in your teens", said Koiku. "Of course traditional Japanese dance is completely different from ballet, and it was very hard for me to follow at first. It's still hard for me now." (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Koiku, who is a geisha, gets ready at Ikuko's home to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. "I thought it was a world you couldn't enter unless you started training in your teens", said Koiku. "Of course traditional Japanese dance is completely different from ballet, and it was very hard for me to follow at first. It's still hard for me now." (REUTERS)

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Maki, Mayu, Koiku and Ikuko, who are geisha, wear protective face masks as they walk to a restaurant after attending a dance class, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan. July 13, 2020. Ikuko fears an extended pandemic could prompt some geisha to quit. "Now is the worst of the worst", she said. "How are we going to get through? It'll take all of our body and soul." (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Maki, Mayu, Koiku and Ikuko, who are geisha, wear protective face masks as they walk to a restaurant after attending a dance class, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan. July 13, 2020. Ikuko fears an extended pandemic could prompt some geisha to quit. "Now is the worst of the worst", she said. "How are we going to get through? It'll take all of our body and soul." (REUTERS)

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Koiku, who is a geisha, folds a traditional umbrella made out of oli paper, as she arrives at a restaurant where she will work at a party hosted by her customers, where she will entertain, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, July 13, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Koiku, who is a geisha, folds a traditional umbrella made out of oli paper, as she arrives at a restaurant where she will work at a party hosted by her customers, where she will entertain, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, July 13, 2020. (REUTERS)

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Ikuko, who is a geisha, sits in front of a mirror in her living room as she gets ready to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Ikuko, who is a geisha, sits in front of a mirror in her living room as she gets ready to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS)

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Ikuko, who is a geisha, combs her wig in her living room as she gets ready to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. "There were more than 400 geisha in Akasaka when I came, so many I couldn't remember their names. But times changed", said Ikuko. Only 20 remain, and there aren't enough engagements to take on new apprentices - especially now. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Ikuko, who is a geisha, combs her wig in her living room as she gets ready to work at a party being hosted by customers at a luxury restaurant, where she will be entertaining with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. "There were more than 400 geisha in Akasaka when I came, so many I couldn't remember their names. But times changed", said Ikuko. Only 20 remain, and there aren't enough engagements to take on new apprentices - especially now. (REUTERS)

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Mayu, Maki and Koiku, who are all geisha, practice a dance routine during a class for geisha only, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, July 13, 2020. "Sometimes we're so busy we go straight to practice without any sleep, but those times are way better than this", Mayu said. "When you have lots of time, you don't do anything." (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Mayu, Maki and Koiku, who are all geisha, practice a dance routine during a class for geisha only, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, July 13, 2020. "Sometimes we're so busy we go straight to practice without any sleep, but those times are way better than this", Mayu said. "When you have lots of time, you don't do anything." (REUTERS)

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Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, performs a dance routine for a film supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, performs a dance routine for a film supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. (REUTERS)

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Koiku, who is a geisha, wears a protective face mask to pose for a photograph, before working at a party being hosted by customers, where she will entertain with other geisha, at Asada, a luxury Japanese restaurant, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Koiku, who is a geisha, wears a protective face mask to pose for a photograph, before working at a party being hosted by customers, where she will entertain with other geisha, at Asada, a luxury Japanese restaurant, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS)

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Mitsunaga Kanda, a makeup artist and Yurie Hatanaka, a wig stylist, wear protective face masks and face shields as they work on Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, before he dances for a film being made that is supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. "Every single one of my events has been cancelled", said Kanda. "We touch their skin and their face, all over, and while we don't talk we're very close - something we're very aware of now." (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Mitsunaga Kanda, a makeup artist and Yurie Hatanaka, a wig stylist, wear protective face masks and face shields as they work on Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, before he dances for a film being made that is supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. "Every single one of my events has been cancelled", said Kanda. "We touch their skin and their face, all over, and while we don't talk we're very close - something we're very aware of now." (REUTERS)

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Shoichi Sanagashi, a kimono dresser, wears a protective face mask as he dresses Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, before Hanasaki is recorded dancing for a film supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Shoichi Sanagashi, a kimono dresser, wears a protective face mask as he dresses Tokijyo Hanasaki, a jiutamai dancer, before Hanasaki is recorded dancing for a film supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in order to support artists during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a studio in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2020. (REUTERS)

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Mayu and Koiku, who are geisha, wait for their customers, who are hosting a party at Asada, a luxury Japanese restaurant, where they will entertain with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS) expand-icon View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Jul 16, 2020 02:21 PM IST

Mayu and Koiku, who are geisha, wait for their customers, who are hosting a party at Asada, a luxury Japanese restaurant, where they will entertain with other geisha, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. (REUTERS)

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