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Black makeup Coronavirus: Tokyo’s geisha struggle to endure amidst pandemic


Black makeup Coronavirus: Tokyo’s geisha struggle to endure amidst pandemic

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 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…

Black makeup Coronavirus: Tokyo’s geisha struggle to endure amidst pandemic

Black makeup

Ikuko, the “huge sister” of Tokyo‘s Akasaka geisha district, pertained to the capital to seek her fortune in 1964, the year Tokyo initially hosted the Olympics However the coronavirus pandemic has made her worry for her centuries-old profession as never ever before.

Though the variety of geisha– renowned for their amusing discussion, beauty and skill at conventional arts– has actually been succumbing to years, Ikuko and her coworkers were without work for months due to Japan‘s state of emergency situation and now run under uncomfortable social distancing rules.

” There were more than 400 geisha in Akasaka when I came, many I could not remember their names. But times changed,” Ikuko, now 80, said.

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Nowadays, only approximately 20 stay, and there aren’t adequate engagements to take on new apprentices– especially now.

Coronavirus-induced austerity has slashed expenditure accounts, and lots of people remain careful of spending hours in the elegant but closed standard rooms where geisha entertain.

Engagements are down 95 per cent, and include new rules: no pouring beverages for consumers or touching them even to shake hands, and sitting 2 metres apart. Masks are difficult to wear with their sophisticated wigs, so they mostly do not.

” When you sit close, you can talk with feeling, your enthusiasm comes through,” Ikuko said, using a black silk kimono patterned with irises. “When you’re 2 metres apart, discussion breaks down.”

Geisha aren’t the only Japanese artists in danger. Performers of jiutamai, an ancient ladies’s dance, as well as makeup artists, wig stylists and kimono dressers, confessed to fret the coronavirus might even more threaten their specific niche professions.

” Every single one of my events has actually been cancelled,” stated Mitsunaga Kanda, who has invested years doing fancy makeup for geisha and dancers.

” We touch their skin and their face, all over, and while we do not talk we’re really close– something we’re extremely conscious of now,” added Ms Kanda, wearing a mask and face guard to work on dancer Tokijyo Hanasaki.

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Though the ancient capital of Kyoto is best known for geisha, Tokyo has six geisha districts of its own. But prevented by the rigour of geisha life with its hours of artistic practice, less now sign up with.

Akasaka had 120 geisha 30 years earlier. Now all of Tokyo has just some 230.

Lessons and kimono are costly, with pay based on popularity. And some skills, such as the witty discussion that make older geisha like Ikuko particularly popular, can only be gained through time.

” Our income has actually been down to no,” Ikuko said. “I have a little bit of wherewithal, however it’s been extremely hard for the more youthful ones. The geisha association has helped with rent.”

All geisha, as freelancers, can also request 1 million yen (₤ 7,429) in federal government subsidies, which she thinks most did.

” I was simply filled with stress and anxiety,” said fellow geisha Mayu,47 “I went through my photos, sorted my kimonos … The thought of a second wave is scary.”

Still, every effort is being made.

” We set up things in the biggest space possible,” said Shota Asada, owner of the luxurious restaurant where the geisha entertain. “Anything to keep this culture alive.”

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Michiyo Yukawa, an ex-geisha who owns an Akasaka bar and hosts occasional geisha occasions, thinks geisha might need to adjust so that more common individuals can appreciate their appeal.

” They have a special charm,” she said. “They have actually gone through training other individuals haven’t, they spend a great deal of cash on this– and it’s made them unique. Having this vanish would be sad.”

Ikuko fears a prolonged pandemic could trigger some geisha to give up.

” 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.”


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