If you’ve ever seen or studied Japanese theater, you know that traditionally, it is primarily a male art. Kabuki and Noh are probably the most well-known to the West. In these forms of theater, all roles are played by men, even female roles.
Takarazuka is Japan’s answer to the lack of female representation in theater. Founded in 1914 by Ichizo Kobayashi, the girls at his Takarazuka School put on their first performance, and history was born. Takarazuka celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014.
The Takarazuka Revue consists of 5 all-female theater troupes founded throughout the 1920s and 30s (Flower, Moon, Snow, Star), and one in the mid 90s (Cosmos). There is also a specialist troupe (Senka) consisting of superior performers that can join performances of any of the other 5 troupes.
Takarazuka troupes perform primarily at 2 main stages in Hyogo and Tokyo. Each troupe has a Top Star for “otoko yaku”, or male lead performances, and a Top Musume for accompanying female leads.
Current Top Star for the Flower troupe, Rio Asumi.
Current Top Musume for the Flower troupe, Ayase Senna.
The Takarazuka Revue perform everything from Broadway musicals and classic Japanese theater, to film, comic, and anime adaptations. They also perform original productions. Some of their most famous performances include Les Miserables, The Rose of Versailles, Gone with the Wind, and Romeo & Juliet.They perform almost 1,500 times per year, and sometimes perform overseas.
Takarazuka has an average yearly viewership of 2.5 million people. They are extremely popular for their beautiful costumes, unique performances of various adaptations, and most notably, the actors who take on male roles. The “otoko yaku” have a feverish following, and many female fans often develop feelings for them, especially for the Top Stars.
The Top Stars and Top Musume are the pride of Takarazuka, as well as its backbone; without the Top Stars and Top Musume, “Takarazuka is nothing”. The subversion of traditional gender roles is also something that makes Takarazuka extremely popular, particularly in a society whose gender roles are still rigidly defined. Whatever an individual’s reasons for loving Takarazuka, it is worth going to see at least once.
If you want to learn more about Takarazuka or order tickets, please visit http://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/english/index.html