As many around the world continue to self-quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a major increase in online socializing. In Japan, online nomikai, or drinking parties, are all the rage. Specialized apps like Takunomu have even popped up to facilitate the task.
But it’s not only private individuals who are getting together on Zoom or other video chat apps. A quick review of press releases in the last month or so shows a growing list of companies and establishments offering online nomikai events. From sake brewers offering to chat about sake, an online izakaya service pairing food delivery from participating restaurants and hosted parties, and perhaps as expected, establishments providing work for hostesses and hosts. Even Vtubers and VR platforms are open to nomikai.
Sometimes these online parties provide an important source of revenue for people who are unable to work during the pandemic.
The town of Hakone Yumoto is home to 150 geisha and 31 geisha houses, making it the largest center of geisha culture after Kyoto. Since November 2019, “Meet Geisha” has hosted opportunities for foreign visitors to discover geisha performance in a modernized, approachable way. Through Nihon Buyo dancing and classic geisha party games, all with English explanations, visitors can learn about and enjoy geisha culture in a fun and casual environment.
Online drinking parties with geishas
According to the Hakone Yumoto Performing Arts Association, the tatami-matted rooms of the traditional ryokan inns of Hakone Yumoto fell quiet in March as reservations stopped coming in. Geisha, who are individually responsible for their income, have been unable to work. However, just as “Meet Geisha” was established as an effort to allow geisha culture to adapt to the needs of contemporary society (and the possibilities of foreign tourism), so have they found a way to adapt to this new challenge by holding online drinking parties, all the while providing a way for the geisha of Hakone Yumoto to continue working.
Another advantage to having online parties is that foreigners don’t even need to travel to Japan to experience geisha culture, and can participate online from the comfort of their homes.
When: Every weekend, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 PM to 8:30 PM (JST)
Price: 1,000 JPY
Number of participants: up to 6
If you would like to reserve an online drinking party with a geisha who speaks English, please submit your request in the following form
If you can speak Japanese, please use their reservation system here.
According to their press release, going forward, they intend improving the experience for customers based on voluntary feedback and make English support a regular feature, making online drinking parties with geishas an additional service available both during and after the pandemic.