Spending time with a geisha was once something reserved for those who could take a trip to Japan. That all changed due to pandemic-related restrictions, so some geisha decided to bring themselves to the people (well, to the people’s screens).
Meet Geisha, a tourist-oriented geisha group that teaches cultural traditions in Kanagawa prefecture, pivoted to video in May. They’ve been running weekly 30-minute experiences over Zoom since. It’s given people outside the country a chance to learn about the culture, as well as employment for the geisha who make a living around human interaction.
The set up is simple: Book a 30-minute session online for around $20, grab your favorite snacks and beverages (alcohol and soft drinks both welcome) and join in with a few other people at the appointed hour (there’s also the option to pay more for a one-on-one chat). The time is spent answering questions, watching traditional dances, playing games, and learning about instruments and traditions just like it would be in real life.
“For a couple of months, Geishas had ZERO income because their main job, which is to serve the guests in a big grouped drinking party at a ryokan-inn, has been prohibited by the government to avoid the 3Cs,” Tamaki Nishimura, Meet Geisha’s general manager, wrote in a statement on the site. Nishimura also added that “international travel may still take some time to come back. But we will not let the Corona stop us from seeing the world out of the country!”
It would have been hard to fathom six months ago that sharing a drink over video chat would be the norm in 2020. Then again, it would have been hard to fathom many things that are part of daily life now — including the sentence “all you need is Zoom and the booze!” coming from a website designed by and for geishas.
To see what it’s like for yourself, book online. It’s about the closest Americans can get to the real thing with international travel restrictions in place.
Dates are currently available through the end of July.