OMG! If there is one aspect of Japan that is not well known, but a definite must see for a trip to Japan it’s the TAKARAZUKA REVUE!
Takarazuka is a smallish town just outside Osaka city on the Kankyu railway. This is fairly important because the review was created in 1913 by the owner of the line who wanted more people to visit the town of Takarazuka. The Takarazuka Revue is an all female theatre production who do musical productions based on the old Western Broadway theatre with exaggerated costumes, music, acting and at the end they like to use this HUGE staircase where all the stars walk down it singing. The bigger the star the bigger their costume and the more spot light they get.
What’s special about the Revue is that girls who join it is they join in their teens and they go to the Takarazuka school instead of High School. They live and train at the dorms and work with the Takarazuka Revue for at least 7 years instead of getting public education. It’s really interesting because although they never come into contact with men (if a Takarazuka woman marries she must retire from Takarazuka) they get trained to be the ‘perfect’ housewife because they go through gruelling training in cleaning and cooking on top of their theatre training. Although when they become top stars the fans basically do all their chores for them. When they leave Takarazuka they either marry or a few go into show-business in other industries.
(Left: Posters for upcoming performances. The closest one is their newest Romeo and Juliet. It looks pretty)
I’m not very good at explaining so here are some cuts from wikipedia ^-^
The Takarazuka Revue was founded by Ichizo Kobayashi, an industrialist-turned-politician and president of Hankyu Railways, in Takarazuka, Japan in 1913. The city was the terminus of a Hankyu line from Osaka and already a popular tourist destination because of its hot springs. Kobayashi believed that it was the ideal spot to open an attraction of some kind that would boost train ticket sales and draw more business to Takarazuka. Since Western song and dance shows were becoming more popular and Kobayashi considered the Kabuki theater to be old and elitist, he decided that an all-female theater group might be well received by the general public.
Part of the novelty of Takarazuka is that all the parts are played by women, based on the original model of Kabuki before 1629 when women were banned from the theater in Japan. The women who play male parts are referred to as otokoyaku (literally "male role") and those who play female parts are called musumeyaku (literally "daughter's role"). The costumes, set designs and lighting are lavish, the performances melodramatic. Side pathways extend the already wide proscenium, accommodating elaborate processions and choreography.
Before becoming a member of the troupe, a young woman must train for two years in the Takarazuka Music School, one of the most competitive of its kind in the world.
Each year, thousands from all over Japan audition. The 40 to 50 who are accepted are trained in music, dance, and acting, and are given seven-year contracts. The school is famous for its strict discipline and its custom of having first-year students clean the premises each morning.
The first year, all women train together before being divided by the faculty and the current troupe members into otokoyaku and musumeyaku at the end of the year. Those playing otokoyaku cut their hair short, take on a more masculine role in the classroom, and speak in the masculine form.
The company has five main troupes: Hana, Tsuki, Yuki, Hoshi, and Sora (Flower, Moon, Snow, Star, and the Cosmos respectively), and Senka (Superior Members), a collection for senior actresses no longer part of a regular troupe who still wish to maintain their association with the revue and perform from time to time. Flower and Moon are the original troupes, founded in 1921. Snow Troupe began in 1924. Star Troupe was founded in 1931, disbanded in 1939, and reestablished in 1948. Cosmos, founded in 1998. is the newest troupe.
(Right: the entrace hall of the theatre...it was big...and sparkly...the paino played itself the main themes of the performances!!!)
Anyway. The other weekend (30th October on Saturday) I went with one of my classes (with Hester again) to see this magical show. And it was AMAZING! We went and saw the Star Troupe do a Revue of Autumn. It was based around really Japanese themes with all the performers in Japanese kimonos doing fan dances and there were ninja and a sword fight between two samurais fighting over a geisha. But it was all a Japanese musical! SOOO PRETTY! I really liked the minor actors rather then the main ones, because although they weren’t in the spot light they were the ones that made the main stars look good. They were the ones that just made it really spectular with well timed moves and adorable costumes. I love the little gadgets they used that just made the show even more spectacular like trap doors, a rotating stage floor and smoke machines and well timed fans to get rid of the smoke when it wasn’t needed. Then there was the music. Soooooooo pretty. I just can’t describe it. A perfect mix of Japanese style and modern stuff ^_^
After the review and a short intermission was the main performance. It was a Japanese musical of An Officer and a Gentleman. I’ve never seen the film before but read a brief description of it before hand. Despite that I understood it really well! I was well chuffed ^^; The acting and the stage props and the timing, the lights and gadgets again were just all mind blowing. It really is on a whole new level compared to the West-end musicals I’ve seen.
(Left: The Theatre on the inside...we were really high up)
Tickets to the show range from 2500 to over 10,000yen! Me and a group plan to go again to see For Whom the Bell Tolls (if we can get around to booking the tickets). Soooo looking forward to it ^^ That will be in the mid-level seats at 5,500yen. I really wish I could have taken pictures of the performance but allas no. But there are videos on youtube ^_^
In the past Takarazuka have done musicals of Phoenix Wright (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJhdCwmO7tc&=fmt) , Black Jack, Romeo and Juliet, Oklahoma, Phantom of the Opera, Singin’ in the Rain, Sound of Music, and loooads more. The Rose of Versailles is their most famous piece. It’s based on a manga of the same name that was supposed to be about Mary Antoinette but it ended up being a story about Oscar, a woman who grey up like a man to take after her father as the leader of the palace guards, so it’s really fitting to the Takarazuka image. (Right: An Officer and a Gentleman program the top is the Autumn Dance)
If that doesn’t give you enough reasons to go to Takarazuka then how about this: The Osamu Tezuka museum is also there! Osamu is the ‘God’ of Japanese Manga. He made Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy, Ribbon no Kishin/Princess Night, Jungle Taitei/Kimba the White Lion etc. It’s quite cool. You can see sketches he’s made and then there’s a café upstairs where you can sit down and watch his anime or read his manga. There’s LOADS so if you have time you’ll be entertained for hours.
So yeah ^___^ Takarazuka. Super awesome. If you’re in Japan GO!