Woman starts maiko company to restore geisha glory

Woman starts maiko company to restore geisha glory

AKITA, Japan - Three maiko apprentice geisha have made their debut as part of an effort to restore this city's once-prominent geisha quarter of Kawabata.

Wanting to help revitalize her hometown, 25-year-old Chinatsu Mizuno started a company that trains and dispatches geisha. The Akita Chamber of Commerce and Industry is backing the company, hoping it will help attract tourists again to the quarter.

In addition to entertaining customers at parties, maiko perform at the Akita Kanto Festival and various other events.

From the Taisho era (1912-1926) until the start of World War II, there were about 40 to 50 geisha houses in the Kawabata quarter, with a total of about 150 geisha. However, the number began declining for such reasons as changes in the style of banquets and an insufficient number of women wanting to become geisha. It has been about 10 years since the last active geisha worked in the quarter.

Mizuno is originally from Daisen, Akita Prefecture, and started working at a cosmetics firm in Tokyo after graduating from a university in Kanagawa Prefecture. She returned to Akita in March 2012 to start a company in her hometown.

Mizuno took an interest in the Kawabata geisha after looking into the history of the area. In April, she started Sen, a management company for maiko, after learning about companies in neighbouring Yamagata Prefecture, such as Yamagata Dento Geino Shinko, which hire women to train them as geisha.

Of the seven women aged about 20 that Sen hired to become maiko, Chinoha, Chiyori and Chioka have made their debut after training in the art of Japanese dancing.

They have already received bookings, and since June have been entertaining customers once or twice a week.

Due to their inexperience in both Japanese dance and etiquette, they still make a lot of mistakes when entertaining customers.

"I want to become more elegant," said Chinoha with great determination.

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