On a chilly evening earlier in November, geisha Kikuno and her two apprentice maiko host an event that gives guests an opportunity to experience a dinner party with traditional female entertainers.

The atmosphere at Sushi Isshin, a restaurant in Tokyo's Yushima district, is boisterous as the guests chat among themselves or with their neighbors. The entertainers, who are visiting from Nara, invite the guests to sip on sake and enjoy a full-course sushi dinner served by second-generation owner Hirosada Okamoto.

However, a hush descends on the crowd when the three hostesses begin their performance, with Kikuno dancing gracefully to the soft plucking sound of the shamisen.