Geisha 2.0

An ancient tradition, revived through the network: Geishas are taking to the web.

For decades, the numbers of geisha training in Kyoto has been declining. A recent Guardian article attributes the decline to a crisis of reputation – during the end of the 20th century geisha came to be seen as “prostitutes in national dress.” Now, thanks to unprecedented media exposure and an embrace of the internet, the tide is turning. Kyoto residents are seeing

the emergence of the cyber-geisha, who combine daily study of the traditional arts with a few minutes spent on their laptops. Though free of gossip – protocol precludes any mention of clients’ names or how they behave – the most popular blogs draw thousands of visitors a month, eager to soak up even the most pedestrian accounts of the maiko’s working day.

“The old geisha were terribly snooty and couldn’t care less what people thought of them,” says Downer, who attributes teahouse websites and online maiko application forms partly to enlightened self-interest.

“Now there is more interest in presenting an image to the world that brings them bigger dividends. They finally started to worry that geisha traditions would die out, and that they needed to do something about it.”

Openness attracts success, the network connects people and builds critical mass.


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