Geisha numbers are ever dwindling, with the once revered symbol of Japan becoming ever more difficult to spot as prices skyrocket and fewer businessmen can afford their company. But there is one ward of Tokyo
where these elegant people can be spotted more frequently, and not less.
In Hachioji, a district of Japan's capital city, geisha are stepping out of the shadows and parading their dance and musical skills to the delight of tourists, in an effort to promote fine Japanese art and entertainment.
The women also promote Mount Takao, a local tourist attraction that is key to keeping visitor numbers to Hachioji high - it is particularly renowned for offering stellar views over Tokyo
and for its great hiking trails.
Megumi, the head of the Hachioji Geigi Kumiai, a local geisha association, and owner of Yukinoe geisha house - to which many Hachioji geisha belong - explained the reason behind the change in strategy.
"The number of places where we can work are dropping off, so we need to get out to other venues," she said.
Ozashiki asobi, a practice that sees geisha entertaining at a banquet space in a Japanese bar or restaurant, is currently in decline, which has led the women to show off their singing and dancing elsewhere.
Hachioji has a long history of geisha culture thanks to its once-thriving textile industry. Many executives were patrons of the geisha, paying them to perform in upscale restaurants in order to impress others and clinch business deals.
The concept of the geisha has no equivalent in any other culture, which has led to the common misconception that they are courtezans or prostitutes. However, they are actually trained from a young age to become entertainers, with many specialising in a musical instrument, dance and song.
Other places to see them in Japan include Kyoto's famed Gion district, where you may find them entertaining in bars and restaurants, particularly during the cherry blossom
Related news stories:Japanese professor scoops prestigious award (20th November 2008)Japanese city launches geisha training scheme (16th September 2011)See in the spring at Setsubun (8th January 2009)