One cannot deny that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected not just our lifestyle in general but also many businesses and occupations.
Professions that especially depended on human and social interaction quite a lot have been severely affected by COVID-19.
The extremely contagious nature of the disease has made social distancing and lockdown a necessity and not just something you can disregard.
Many countries still have lockdown in place and are encouraging people to comply with social distancing daily. This usually includes keeping at least a 6 feet distance between each other, a big group not collecting in a small room, and wearing masks and gloves whenever interaction with other people is inevitable.
One profession all these rules have affected is the geishas of Japan. The centuries-old profession was already not a very prosperous one, something that relied on tourists giving it their attention more than the locals. With the COVID-19 going on, their profession has been impacted even more.
How Is The Geisha Community Struggling?
Reports reveal that there used to be more than 400 Geishas in the Akasaka region of Tokyo, Japan.
That number, over the years, dwindled down to just around 20 and it might go down even more. Getting a Geisha apprentice is becoming very difficult these days, and many fear that the profession could soon go extinct.
The global lockdown and drastic decrease in tourism have already affected the Geisha profession in a bad way.
Many businesses would run, providing aesthetic Geisha experiences to tourists near tourist destinations. Foreign travellers would visit these businesses and pay to get dressed up, professionally photographed and more as a Geisha.
Not just that, but there were also those who would allow tourists to meet with actual Geishas and engage in fun games and activities with them.
Now with no tourists coming in, the Geisha profession has already been affected quite a lot, but social distancing is another obstacle to them.
Geishas are essentially entertainers and performers, however, they are also known for their conversation skills. There is a certain intimacy and quietness to their interactions with clients.
That is not possible if people have to adhere to a standard social distancing and sit two meters apart. Ikuko, the big sister of Akasaka Geisha district has reportedly said that conversations break down if you are sitting two metres apart.
In a report by the Reuters, Ikuko was quoted saying, “When you sit close, you can talk with feeling, your passion comes through,” and added that “When you’re two metres apart, conversation breaks down.”
The elaborate and detailed makeup and wigs of Geishas also make it difficult to wear masks over them.
The Geisha business has decreased by 95 percent in engagement, coupled with new rules like:
- cannot pour customer their drinks
- no touching or handshake
- sit 2 metres away from customers
The way the pandemic has affected the economy has made people focus more on their essential needs than spending money on other non-essential things. And for many, a Geisha experience is not really a priority at the moment.
One has to understand that the Geisha profession is very niche and quite expensive too. Geisha lessons, kimonos, wigs, jewellery and accessories, and other expenses can be quite a lot.
Ikuko also revealed that their income has gone down to zero, and that, “I have a bit of wherewithal, but it’s been very hard for the younger ones. The geisha association has helped with rent.”
The Reuters report did reveal that Geishas being freelancers are eligible to apply for government subsidies amounting to 1 million yen.
A posh restaurant owner, Shota Asada, where Geishas often entertain explained some measures they are taking to keep them employed. The owner said, “We arrange things in the largest room possible,” and added that, “Anything to keep this culture alive.”
Image Credits: Google Images
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