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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.

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