Sunday, May 10, 2009

Takarazuka City (宝塚市)

While in Osaka, I went on a second personal pilgrimage to the city of Takarazuka.

During college, I wrote my honors thesis for the Japanese major on the Takarazuka Revue. For those who don't know, the Takarazuka Revue is an all-female Japanese theatrical organization that performs stage musicals of both Japanese and Western origin.

At its base level, Takarazuka offers patrons the chance to watch women prance around on-stage in glittery costumes and act like guys. This is shortchanging the tradition to no end. For me, the Revue is strange and wonderful and fascinating and magical, all at the same time.

Takarazuka has always seemed to be a very obvious dialogue between Western and Japanese cultures. This dialogue is by no means confined to the stage; it permeates nearly every aspect of modern Japanese culture. I happen to find this topic fascinating.

But I digress. I had originally planned to visit Takarazuka with my host mother while living in Kyoto, but we never made the trip. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to visit the city this time around.

I've written a fair amount about Takarazuka on the blog in the past, so, for those who want to learn more, please search the archives. There are also some Takarazuka links on the right-hand side of the blog as well.

The musicals really must be seen in-person. I highly encourage anyone traveling to Japan to be brave, stake out a seat at the theater, and experience the magic of Takarazuka!



Tony Mariani said...

Great story and pictures. The Takarazuka has a bit of a history in Japan. When they went to film SAYONARA in Japan (1957 film starring Marlon Brando), the production company contacted the person who ran the Takarazuka for support in making the film. All was fine until the production company showed up, then it all changed (the man in charge wanted a lot more money). It is actually a quite funny story as it is true. The production company somehow managed to get replacements for the stage company but when I watch the movie now, I see it in a different light. Truman Copete interviewed Marlon Brando in Japan when the movie was being made. If you enjoy Capote, the interview is quite good.

Ben Whaley  said...

I happen to like that movie quite a bit. I believe they used the Shochiku Kagekidan (a one-time competitor of Takarazuka) as replacements for the film.

The organization is incredibly difficult to infiltrate. To date, Prof. Jennifer Robertson is the only one who seems to have gotten access for her research and book on Takarazuka. Even so, Hankyu supposedly wasn't very pleased with the way the book turned out.