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Though geisha can be found throughout Japan, the former Imperial capital Kyoto is considered the birthplace of geisha culture. Contrary to unsavory myths, geisha — or “geiko” as they’re called in Kyoto dialect — are actually professional entertainers hired to perform and interact with guests during dinners and other occasions. Avi Lugasi, the founder and managing director of Windows to Japan, a high-end travel company based in Kyoto, says “Geisha are aware that they are a special and unique aspect of the Japanese culture and subject to interest so it is a part of their lives, but people need to respect them too.”

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