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Geisha, maiko in Kyoto given clear fans instead of face shields as industry adapts to virus

Two "maiko" apprentice geisha are seen holding clear fans provided as measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward on July 31, 2020. (Mainichi/Ai Kawahira)

KYOTO -- One of the five famous "hanamachi" entertainment districts in this western Japan city has distributed clear "uchiwa" fans to geisha and "maiko" apprentice geisha as a measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

    While it is difficult for geisha and maiko, who wear white makeup in front of guests, to also put on masks, they can entertain guests while showing what expressions they're making by holding a transparent fan to the face when talking.

    In Kyoto's hanamachi districts, geisha and maiko customarily hand out fans with their names written on them to regular clients as a summer greeting, and the fans are seen to herald the season.

    The clear fans, which are sold commercially, were distributed by executives of the Miyagawacho district's ochaya (teahouse) association. Chikasaya, 20, and Nana, 19, two maiko with the geisha lodging house Komaya, said, "If we use fans instead of face shields, we can feel a bit safer, and it could also lead to our customers taking more caution, too."

    A separate association made up of the five hanamachi entertainment districts in Kyoto says it has established its own guidelines for geisha and maiko, which include maintaining a distance of 1 or 2 meters from each customer. They also advise against talking when close to customers -- such as when pouring drinks for them -- and to avoid offers of a cup of sake in return or drinking from the same cup. Playing "ozashiki asobi" games is also discouraged, and it is recommended that customers be entertained with conversations and performances instead.

    (Japanese original by Mai Suganuma, Osaka Regional News Department, and Ai Kawahira, Kyoto Bureau)

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