NASU, Tochigi -- A boy in his late teens has made a sensational debut as a geisha here in this hot-spring town, raising local tourism officials' hopes for a boost in visitors.
Going by the stage name "Akari," the 19-year-old male geisha is a new face at the long-established geisha house "Fujinoya" in the Nasu hot-spring resort. As a longtime fan of female impersonators on stage, Akari had always been interested in working as a geisha and joined the geisha house through an acquaintance.
"It's not easy to become a geisha, but we welcomed Akari because he seemed to have a strong will (to be a geisha)," says Fujinoya Proprietress Hiroko Nemoto. Akari is the first male geisha at the house in its 76-year history, according to Nemoto.
Akari began preparing for his debut at the end of October and rehearsed dancing, played taiko drums and wore a geisha wig. Finally, early this month he performed along with his senior geishas in front of customers for the first time.
With all the makeup, including bright red lipstick, applied to his face, the kimono-clad boy excels as the character Akari. Although the boy is strongly built, it is actually difficult for one to tell Akari is not a woman.
On Dec. 20, in his fourth performance in front of customers, Akari elegantly danced and played taiko with three other geishas at a year-end party held at Matsukawaya Nasu Kogen Hotel, and received a warm round of applause.
It is said that it takes at least three years to learn all of a geisha's repertoire. Akari, however, is full of enthusiasm for his career, saying, "I want to mature as a geisha as soon as possible and entertain customers." Nemoto also focuses on training Akari, planning to give him his own unique skills.
Meanwhile, Nobuhiko Hirokawa, the hotel's chairman who previously headed the tourist associations of the town of Nasu and Tochigi Prefecture, expressed his support for Akari, describing the debut of a male geisha as "newsworthy."
P.S. In the image, Akari is to the right. Article from NewsOnJapan.com.