Takarazuka Revue : A Staple of Japanese Culture That is Known to Those in the Know
by Shunataro Okimoto
Do you know Kabuki? It is one of the most famous traditional performances in Japan. It began around 1500 AD. Accompanied by the sound of shamisen, fierce romances and fights between samurai are performed powerfully. Both male and female characters appear in the play, but all the parts are performed by male actors. Male actors who play women wear beautiful kimono, disguise themselves in makeup, and move and gesture in a feminine manner so that everyone can see them as women. There is a new theater, Kabuki-za, in Ginza, Tokyo that is dedicated to the art of Kabuki, so I recommend you go see a show there once if you have never visited.
I would like to introduce Takarazuka Revue at this time, which shares similar aspects of Japanese culture with Kabuki. Takarazuka Revue began about 100 years ago in Takarazuka City, which is located north of Osaka in Hyogo Prefecture. Although it is a newer type of performance than Kabuki, it was founded before the Second World War. A typical performance is three hours long and split into two parts. The first part is a theatrical play. Original romantic love stories or musicals that are popular worldwide are performed. Many of these works come from the United States, "Gone with the Wind" and "West Sid Story" being popular examples. The second part is a show. There are Japanese-style performances such as Japanese dances with all the actors wearing kimono, but other art forms from foreign countries are also performed.
The biggest feature of the Takarazuka Revue is that it is all performed by female actors, compared to Kabuki with its all-male cast. Women play the roles of male characters, but because they are portraying masculine movements such as in the ways men stand, walk, and sit, their movements are more masculine than real men. Fans of Takarazuka say that "they are cooler than real men." I think I might agree!
Also, another draw for audience members are the vibrant costumes and the theater itself, which is very beautiful. Do you think Japanese people only like things that reflect a spirit of Zen or just prefer simplicity? Well, these Takarazuka performers are dancing energetically, wearing colorful feather costumes in the form of peacocks on a stage where the electric decorations shine. Unfortunately, I cannot post images to show this due to copyright, but please look at the following official English website. I'm sure you will be surprised at the world that exists there.
Takarazuka Revue English Website Link
I have been fascinated by Takarazuka Revue for a long time. After watching it on a television broadcast about twenty years ago, I became enthusiastic about it. I love the unique atmosphere created by about 70 actors on stage and 2,500 spectators. I lived next to the theater for two years in 2013 and 2014.
It was a wonderful two years living alongside the world of Takarazuka Revue.
If you want to experience this complex attraction, please go and witness a performance for yourself at least once. The Takarazuka Revue has performed around the world, for example in New York, Honolulu, and London, but recently many of the performances occur throughout Asia due to an increased number of Asian fans. Those in the United States may find it easiest to see a show in Japan. There are two theaters in Tokyo and Takarazuka, and you can buy tickets on the Revue's English website.
The theater before a performance
(Takarazuka Grand Theater15s5s2880 by 663highland
is licensed under CC BY 2.5)
Takarazuka Revue's gorgeous stage
(Takarazuka Revue by calltheambulance is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)