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Oddly Enough

The oldest living geisha in Tokyo vows to work until she dies

Monday, July 07, 2014 - 01:27

Yuko Asakusa has worked as a geisha for three quarters of a century. At 91 she says she will keep working until she takes her last breath. Jeanne Yurman reports.

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In a Tokyo apartment, Yuko Asakusa puts on her makeup as she has for the last 75 years. At 91, she is said to be the city's oldest living geisha -- a traditional Japanese female performer who wealthy professionals pay to play instruments, sing, dance and engage in witty conversation. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 91-YEAR-OLD GEISHA, YUKO ASAKUSA, SAYING: "I'm still only 91-years-old. I say 'I'm still only 91' to people on purpose. My clients laugh uproariously." Asakusa, whose real name is Fumi Kikuchi (hoo-me Kee-koo-chee), wanted to be a geisha (gaysha) since she was 13 and saw geisha movies with her mother. After a three-year apprenticeship she began what became a lifelong career. The number of Japan's geishas has fallen from a peak of 80,000 in 1928 to roughly 1,000 today. But the shrinking profession still fuels the same fire in Asakusa as it did when she was a teen. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 91-YEAR-OLD GEISHA, YUKO ASAKUSA, SAYING: "Its not about until how old I get. In my case, I will be a geisha all my life. It's not until a specific age, it's until I die." Until then, the golden geisha spends her time fielding 20 reservations a month and instructing the next generation of young entertainers.

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The oldest living geisha in Tokyo vows to work until she dies

Monday, July 07, 2014 - 01:27