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HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/JAPAN-GEISHA
RTS3K7OL
July 16, 2020
Ikuko, the "big sister" of Tokyo's Akasaka geisha district, came to the capital to seek her fortune in...
Tokyo, Japan
The Wider Image: "It'll take all of our body and soul" - geisha struggle to survive in the shadow of...
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. "There were more than 400 geisha in Akasaka when I came, so many I couldn't remember their names. But times changed," Ikuko, now 80, said. Only 20 remain, and there aren't enough engagements to take on new apprentices - especially now. Coronavirus-induced austerity has slashed expense accounts, and many people remain wary of spending hours in the elegant but closed traditional rooms where geisha entertain. 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. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon SEARCH "GEISHA COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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