Takarazuka Gekijo (Theater), Tokyo

1930sNotable LandmarkTheaters & Entertainers
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Takarazuka performers, c. 1940.

Takarazuka Revue, c. 1930. Regardless of the era of the musical presented, period accuracy is relaxed for costumes during extravagant finales which include scores of glittering performers parading down an enormous stage-wide staircase and a Rockette-style kick line. Lead performers portraying both male and female roles appear in the finale wearing huge circular feathered back-pieces reminiscent of Las Vegas or Paris costuming.

See also:
Ernie Pyle Theater, Yurakucho, c. 1950
Takarazuka Hotel, Baths and Opera House, Takarazuka, c. 1920-1930

“From the mid-1930s onward the expression danso no reijin, literally ‘a beautiful person [i.e. female] in masculine attire,’ was used sympathetically in reference to both Takarazuka otokoyaku and masculinized females. The expression, a euphemism for chusei, was apparently coined in 1932 by novelist Muramatsu Shofu. His serialized short story, Danso no reijin, was inspired by Kawashima Yoshiko (1906-1948), who donned a military uniform and passed as a man during the early stages of Japanese imperialism in China and Manchuria.”

Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan, Jennifer Ellen Robertson, 1998

The Takarazuka Theater, c. 1940.

The Takarazuka Theater, c. 1940, located catty-corner from the Imperial Hotel.

Takarazuka Revue, 1970.

Takarazuka Revue, 1970.

From the wiki: “The Takarazuka Revue is a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe based in Takarazuka, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. Women play all roles in lavish, Broadway-style productions of Western-style musicals, and sometimes stories adapted from shōjo manga and Japanese folktales. The troupe takes its name from the Hankyu Takarazuka rail line connecting suburban Takarazuka to Osaka.

“Kobayashi built an entertainment park around a hot-spring spa to entice more people to use the railroad. At the core of the entertainment park stood a western-style indoor swimming pool, which was, however, a failure. To compensate for the financial loss, Kobayashi turned it into a theater and founded a singing troupe whose special feature was that it consisted only of girls.

“Kobayashi got the idea for this all-female troupe from the boy orchestra, which since 1909 had been a popular attraction of the Mitsukoshi department store in Nihonbashi. The Takarazuka troupe started with sixteen girls between ten and fourteen years of age, and what began as an amateur experiment eventually developed into a professional and very popular form of entertainment.”

The Culture of Japan as Seen through Its Leisure, edited by Sepp Linhart & Sabine Fruhstuck, 1998

“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 Takarazuka Theater was requisitioned during the Occupation Era (1945-1952) for use as a theater for Allied troops, for stage shows and movies. and renamed the Ernie Pyle Theater.

The Ernie Pyle née Takarazuka Theater, c. 1950, during the Occupation.

The Ernie Pyle née Takarazuka Theater, c. 1950, during the Occupation.

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