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Geisha perform at hot spring resort Hakone

A tourist is entertained by geisha at a free trial session in November.

TOKYO -- Foreign tourists will have the chance to experience the lavish entertainment of Japanese geisha for low prices from next year.

     Hakone Ichinoyu Group will launch the uniquely Japanese entertainment experience in the hot spring resort town of Hakone from next year.

     The company runs eight inns and hotels in the town, about an hour away from Tokyo. It will offer guests an opportunity to watch samisen performances and take part in small games with geisha in its main building's party hall.

     Half of Ichinoyu's guests are foreign tourists. English-speaking clerks will interpret for them when they interact with geisha. The company will arrange this special program if it receives a request from a group of more than 10 people two weeks in advance.

     In November, the hotel organized a free session with geisha for a group of French guests to get promotional photos.

     Initially, the hotel operator will offer the program from Jan. 12 through April 30 next year. If there is enough demand, it will the offer the service all year round. It charges 3,000 yen ($25) before tax per person if guests stay at the main Japanese inn and 5,000 yen more for those guests staying at its hotel Quatre Saisons.

     Hakone has not offered geisha entertainment for foreign tourists before. The town is relatively unknown overseas. The town has seen a sharp increase in foreign tourists due in part to the registration of Mount Fuji as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2013. Of the approximately 4.71 million overnight hotel guests last year, 160,000 of them were foreign travelers, up 80% from a year earlier, according to the local municipality.

     About 20 million visitors come to Hakone annually, with foreign tourists accounting for about 480,000. "We are seeing further rises in foreign tourists," said an official in charge of tourism at the Hakone municipality office.

     Reservations can be made online in Japanese and English, starting this month. The company said it has already received interest in the service. "We have set reasonable prices when compared with geisha performances in Kyoto," said a company official.

(Nikkei)

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