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TOKYO

Rare chance to see Tokyo geisha

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Being a talented conversationalist is a vital part of the skill set of any accomplished hostess. The same goes for top-class geisha. Veteran geisha Ikuko, for example, recalls scouring newspapers avidly for potential conversation topics, dining with her apprentices every morning, and even frequenting local gay bars to learn the art of effervescent banter. Her unceasing efforts have paid off, as Ikuko is now one of Japan’s best-known geisha.

Ikuko will be joining dozens of other geisha this weekend to present a traditional dance performance called “Akasaka Odori” at Akasaka Act Theater. Akasaka has long been a center of geisha culture. In 2007, geisha from the district, including Ikuko, took part in the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., entrancing more than 1,000 people with their exquisite performance.

The Akasaka Odori festival was first held in 1949. It’s one of the few occasions where geisha emerge from behind the doors of exclusive Japanese restaurants to share their skills — such as singing, dancing and playing musical instruments — with the public. Since 2008 the show has been held at the Akasaka Act Theater. The finale always receives a rapturous reception from the audience, which appreciates the high quality of the performance.

The 52nd Akasaka Odori takes place at Akasaka Act Theater, Tokyo, March 2 and 3. Tickets are priced between ¥3,000 and ¥7,000. For more information, call (03) 3234 9999 or visit akasakakai.jimdo.com