Geishas perfected the art of conversation, offering witty discourse as they kept the sake flowing. Geisha banquets -- especially in Tokyo -- were once places for serious business negotiations and closed-door political discussions, according to Hisafumi Iwashita, a professor at Kokugakuin University and an expert on geisha culture. But from around the middle of the 20th century, business and political leaders started to lose interest in geisha banquets, called "ozashiki," instead entertaining clients and guests at other venues, like night clubs.
"Geishas, once praised as 'flowers of Tokyo,' are fading to become nothing, like other traditional cultures," Iwashita said in a video interview. "Geishas used to be a big business and part of life, but now it is only surviving as a culture to preserve."
A day in the life of a geisha often begins in the morning and ends in the early hours of the next day, as they entertain clients all through the evening. Ikuko now follows a less punishing schedule, often spending her afternoons training younger geishas in her house.