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Questioning Women’s Prevalence in Takarazuka Theatre:
The Interplay of Light and Shadow

Claude Michel‑Lesne
Translated by Karen Grimwade

Abstracts

This article offers an insight of a little‑known aspect of Takarazuka Revue’s history, which counters the official discourse of the eponymous theatre company, promoting the all-female nature of their troupes. By analyzing the accidental origins of male roles (otokoyaku) being embodied by young girls, as well as troupe’s founder Kobayashi Ichizō’s statements in favor of a mixed cast and various attempts of achieving this goal (ephemeral integration of male actors, creation of the Takarazuka-affiliated troupes of Kokuminza and Shingeiza), we will determine precisely how and why casts became exclusively all‑female after World War II, with a special focus on the 1946‑1954 male section (danshibu). The study of the company’s schizophrenic relationship to their history ultimately reveals their misappropriation of the concept of “tradition” in order to showcase their singularity and keep their hegemonic position in the world of all‑female theatre. We hereby call into question the integrity and legitimacy of current discourses about Takarazuka—discourses widely spread by Japanese media.

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The author would like to thank the stage arts journalist Tsuji Norihiko for his cooperation and for granting permission to reproduce the images that illustrate this article, figures 1‑3 being personal archives obtained by him from former members of Takarazuka’s male section. All photo credits: Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center.

Original release: Claude Michel‑Lesne, « La question de la mixité dans le théâtre Takarazuka : jeux d’ombre et de lumière », Cipango, 20, 2013, 165‑230, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2015. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/​cipango/​1944 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.1944

1Although it occupies an extremely marginal position in Japanese stage arts history, the Takarazuka Revue is nowadays famous throughout Japan for its spectacular productions performed by an entirely female cast. Nevertheless, it would be simplistic, not to mention inaccurate, to present this company founded in 1913 by the entrepreneur Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三 (1873‑1957) solely from the angle of its female cast, and its famous corollary—the specialisation of actresses in male roles (otokoyaku 男役). Right from the outset, the issues raised by Takarazuka went beyond artistic and gender concerns to reveal significant ideological, media, socio-economic and even political strands.

  • 1 The term Hanshin 阪神, which refers to a thirty-kilometre stretch of the Kansai region between Osaka (...)
  • 2 Tsuganesawa Toshihiro 津金沢聡広, Takarazuka senryaku – Kobayashi Ichizō no seikatsu bunkaron 宝塚戦略―小林一三 (...)

2This becomes clear if we recall Takarazuka’s strategic position in the business activities of its parent company, the Hankyū Hanshin Tōhō Group. Thanks to its vitality in the rail transportation, retail, real estate and leisure sectors, the Hankyū group is well known to have been one of the driving forces behind “Hanshin modernism” (Hanshin mōdanizumu 阪神モーダニズム),1 a term that refers to the changes in lifestyle and consumption patterns that developed in the Kansai region from the late Taishō period (1912‑1926) through to the 1940s and 1950s. Much more than a simple business, Hankyū was thus influential in economic and cultural spheres, as well as in the urban development of the Kansai region. Significantly, Takarazuka’s key role in the business affairs of its parent company was such that it gave rise to the term “Takarazuka strategy” (Takarazuka senryaku 宝塚戦略). For Tsuganesawa Toshihiro 津金沢聡広 (1932‑), the scholar who coined this expression, the business model of Hankyū Hanshin Holdings is rooted in the city of Takarazuka, since the business ideas and strategies that made the group famous emerged during the development phase of the troupe.2 Seen from this perspective, “Hankyū culture” or even “Hanshin culture” is merely an extension of “Takarazuka culture”. Conversely, the public’s affection for the Takarazuka Revue cannot be understood without remembering that Kobayashi Ichizō continues to be widely known and respected in the business world essentially for having founded the Hankyū business empire, a vital component in the region’s economy. He was behind such wide-ranging achievements as the urban development of the north‑east area of Osaka bordering the company’s railway network; the creation of department stores within the terminal stations of these lines; the transformation of Osaka’s Umeda neighbourhood and Tokyo’s Hibiya neighbourhood into urban centres dedicated to entertainment and leisure; and the creation of the Tōhō film company. Strictly speaking, the Takarazuka Revue is just one of Kobayashi’s many successful initiatives. Yet most importantly, it was also the institution he held in the greatest affection until his death, as he himself confessed. The emotional attachment associated with Takarazuka thus stems both from the prestige of the Hankyū group and the aura that continues to surround Kobayashi Ichizō.

  • 3 Translator’s note: in accordance with the author’s wishes, a distinction is made throughout the pr (...)
  • 4 Although it is not the oldest musical theatre company in Japan, the Takarazuka Revue is nonetheles (...)

3Backed by this powerful infrastructure, the Takarazuka Revue is unique in the world of theatrical entertainment for being the only company to exert full control over the entire creative and production process. It possesses its own theaters,3 a school for training new recruits, a dedicated orchestra, in-house writers, teams of costume, accessory and set designers, and units dedicated to publication and distribution, all of which forms a sprawling network of sub‑companies working in permanent and close cooperation. Given the company’s sheer size, corporate power, media omnipresence and longevity,4 any academic discussion of Takarazuka necessarily means tackling the subject of a stage giant.

4The present article will examine the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Takarazuka Revue, highlighting how the decision to employ only women was inextricably linked to the conjunction of a particular set of economic, educational and ideological factors. Takarazuka’s all-female line‑up, by turns ridiculed as a marginalising factor and promoted as its greatest strength, is thus the product of a complex variety of perspectives as to the Revue’s identity: the one offered by its “official” history, as vaunted in promotional literature; or that of a more unofficial theatrical history made of a profusion of aspirations and ideas, generating concrete initiatives that most often ended in disappointment for those driving them. It was in the clash between the convictions of Kobayashi Ichizō and the fierce determination of the actresses and audiences to preserve a female world that the contribution of male actors to the company gradually met with failure. Yet little evidence remains of the various attempts made throughout the troupe’s history, whether written or photographic. This amnesia suggests that the Revue’s management and archivists have little desire to recall these events, since they run counter to what is presented in the official history as the Takarazuka “tradition,” namely, an all‑female theatre.

5On a more theoretical level, the issue of mixed-sex casts within the Revue offers a casebook example of the selective way that traditions are constructed via a “heroic” history featuring grand figures and legitimisations. Accordingly, this article seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  • 1. To break with the image of a “traditionally all-female” troupe by exploring the true objectives of its founder and the difficulties he faced in achieving them.
  • 2. To show how commercial theatre companies, to a radically greater degree than in any other kind of theatrical endeavour, remain absolutely dependent on the will of the public.
  • 3. And finally, to reveal little-known chapters in Takarazuka’s history, namely the existence within its ranks of male recruits and the creation of the Kokuminza and Shingeiza mixed troupes.
  • 5 Harnessing the synergy between the different business sectors of the Hankyū group, audiences would (...)

6Takarazuka’s plethoric repertoire of plays and lavish revues is a testament to Kobayashi Ichizō’s unfaltering desire to propose new forms of theatre capable of bringing together people from all walks of life. Such was the overriding objective of his “national popular theatre” (kokumingeki 国民劇), an ideal that underpinned all of his artistic endeavours. Yet this initiative was not driven by Marxist aspirations transposed to the realm of entertainment, nor by a belief in the supposed uniqueness or homogeneity of the Japanese, as suggested, for example, in the work of ethnologist Yanagita Kunio 柳田國男 (1875‑1962). Kokumingeki reflected the democratization of consumption, the notion of a capitalist economy, and the dynamic emergence of the concept of “the masses” during the Taishō period (1912‑1926). Kobayashi’s fundamental objective was quite simply to create shows that were entertaining and above all financially viable:5 in his eyes, attracting the widest possible audience, composed of entire families rather than individuals, was in this respect absolutely critical to the success of his initiative. The question was what form this new theatre should take in order to attract essentially urban audiences keen for new leisure activities that reflected their lifestyle. Stage performances needed to become everyday consumer products.

The creation of shōjo kageki

  • 6 Kyūgeki 旧劇 is a generic term for all the theatrical forms that appeared before the Meiji Restorati (...)
  • 7 Kobayashi Ichizō, “Hozon shiubekarazaru kabukigeki” 保存し得べからざる歌舞伎劇 [“The Kabuki theatre that should (...)

7Kobayashi Ichizō was severely critical of “old theatre,”6 which he knew from his student days at Keiō Gijuku 慶応義塾 in Tokyo, where he frequently attended plays in the city’s theatrical neighbourhoods. The majority of his criticisms, which unquestionably conditioned his subsequent artistic initiatives, were focused on Kabuki, an art he considered obsolete and doomed to disappear as soon as it could only be understood by a small group of connoisseurs and specialists. Kobayashi recognised the intrinsic value of theatre accompanied by song and dance, as had been practised for several centuries, but vehemently criticised the desire to “shackle popular tastes” by preserving Kabuki as a traditional art. On the contrary, he believed that Kabuki should change with the times in order to avoid becoming fossilised and reduced to nothing more than a “haunted house”.7

  • 8 With its Viennese architecture and opulent interior, the Imperial Theater (Teikoku Gekijō 帝国劇場) ra (...)
  • 9 During the first five years of staging operas, “adaptations” consisted in most cases in removing f (...)
  • 10 Watanabe Hiroshi 渡辺裕, Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō to nihon kindai 宝塚歌劇の変容と日本近代 [Japanese Modernity (...)

8On the other hand, Kobayashi showed great interest in the potential of Western music, a genre he discovered in the form of opera when the Imperial Theater opened its doors in Tokyo in 1911.8 This institution staged performances of Western opera adapted, with varying degrees of success, to the local audience's tastes.9 Kobayashi saw Western-style instrumentation—which he considered less “obscure” than Kabuki music and therefore more capable of appealing to a wider audience—as the necessary future of “musical theatre,” a concept he referred to using the term kageki 歌劇. Despite being regularly categorised as a form of opera or musical, kageki remains ideologically rooted in a rejection of Kabuki. Basing his argument on the example of primary education, where children were familiarised with Western music at a young age through singing children’s songs (shōka 唱歌), Kobayashi concluded that the Japanese would soon have a greater appreciation for European-style melodies than for the vocal music that accompanied Kabuki (nagauta 長唄).10 He also took inspiration from the department store Mitsukoshi (located in Nihonbashi), which created a choir of boy sopranos (Mitsukoshi Shōnen Ongakutai 三越少年音楽隊) to entertain customers with a shōka repertoire. In 1911, an all‑girl version of this choir was launched by Mitsukoshi’s rival, the clothing retailer Shirokiya, before the phenomenon spread to the west of the country the following year: the department stores Matsuzakaya in Nagoya, Mitsukoshi in Osaka, and Daimaru in Kyoto all established choirs in the hope of enticing future customers to pause for a moment before their shop displays. Hoping to use this model to boost his own business, Kobayashi Ichizō published a first advert in July 1913 to recruit girls for a project he planned to call the “Takarazuka Chorus” (Takarazuka Shōkatai 宝塚唱歌隊), quickly renamed the “Takarazuka Girls’ Opera Training Group” (Takarazuka Shōjo Kageki Yōseikai 宝塚少女歌劇養成会).

  • 11 Another of Kobayashi’s motives in choosing to create a troupe of young girls was no doubt to retai (...)

9Despite rising rapidly to national fame, the Takarazuka Revue's operational base never left the banks of the River Muko 武庫, nor the eponymous town located some forty kilometres north-west of Osaka. The original idea of creating a chorus of approximately twenty young female dancers and musicians to provide occasional entertainment to customers at the “Takarazuka new hot spring” (Takarazuka Shin’onsen 宝塚新温泉) was closely linked to the town’s geographical location, as well as to the changes then affecting the urban space.11 Having become the liquidator of the Hankaku Railway Company after Japan’s railway network was nationalised in 1907, Kobayashi Ichizō took over the management of a planned branch line from Osaka via his newly created Minoo‑Arima Electric Railway Company (Minoo Arima Denki Kidō 箕面有馬電気軌道, a forerunner of Hankyū). When the Osaka‑Takarazuka line opened in 1910, Kobayashi was faced with the challenge of offering a range of leisure activities and attractions that would draw urban dwellers to the terminus and thus make this section of the line more profitable while simultaneously achieving a better distribution of traffic, since this line was essentially used by workers commuting to Osaka. Beyond the promotional boost this initiative would provide to the entire portfolio of his company’s activities, Kobayashi saw an opportunity to create a concrete structure where he could implement his ideas on music and theatre. Just as aesthetic considerations are often driven by technical constraints, the decision to employ young girls, and only young girls, was essentially commercially motivated: Kobayashi believed that an all‑female troupe would be less expensive to run and provide greater publicity than a group of boys. Before he even thought of transforming his chorus into a musical theatre troupe, Kobayashi set himself the objective of achieving the same level of popularity as the Mitsukoshi Shōnen Ongakutai, with all the associated publicity this would generate. Nevertheless, the idea of a mixed troupe had already been discussed when the group was created thanks to the presence of a figure from the world of opera, Andō Hiromu 安藤弘, a composer and opera singer who had graduated from the Tokyo Music Academy (Tōkyō Ongaku Gakkō), Japan’s leading conservatoire at the time. Andō had been hired by Kobayashi as a teacher and coach to prepare the troupe’s young recruits for their first performance in April 1914.

  • 12 Kobayashi Ichizō, Itsuō jijoden 逸翁自叙伝 [Autobiography of an Old Man], 1953, in Otokotachi no Takara (...)

The idea of introducing boys into the Takarazuka Revue is nothing new. It was suggested early on by Mr Andō when the troupe was founded. Perhaps if we had decided to train girls and boys together, the alternative art of all-women’s musical theatre, which Takarazuka monopolises, might never have been born. Perhaps we might have created a truly mixed‑sex musical theatre, or perhaps it would have failed before ever seeing the light of day.12

宝塚に男性加入の論は今に始まったことではない。創設当時から早くすでに安藤先生から主張されたものである。もしその時、男女共習を実行したとせば、少女歌劇という変則の宝塚専売の芸術が生まれなかったであろう。そして男女本格的な歌劇が育ち得たかもしれない。あるいは育ち得るまでに至らず挫折したかもしれない。

  • 13 Kunisaki Aya 國﨑彩, “Taishōki no Takarazuka shōjo kagekidan no buyō katsudō ni tsuite no kōsatsu” 大正 (...)
  • 14 The term “young girl” (shōjo 少女), which was abundantly used in social and artistic spheres during (...)
  • 15 Or more precisely, as players of Western instruments like the piano or violin. This decision allow (...)

10Arguing that not a single all‑female opera troupe existed in the world, Andō suggested creating a mixed opera company instead.13 Kobayashi refused out of concern for his business activities, which he hoped to expand, convinced that a “girls’ opera” (shōjo kageki 少女歌劇) would provide the best publicity.14 He also feared that bringing together young people of both sexes would pose a moral problem, impeding the recruitment of respectable young girls and contradicting his aim of providing “wholesome” (kenzen 健全) family entertainment. Acutely aware of the image of moral decadence associated with the acting profession for women, Kobayashi insisted that his recruits be considered musicians15 and students rather than “actresses” (joyū 女優): the Takarazuka Revue had to be morally irreproachable. The vocabulary chosen to achieve this goal will be discussed in more detail later.

  • 16 From the 17th to the early 20th century there was a relatively large repertoire of roles performed (...)
  • 17 Denise P. Gallo, Opera: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 2005), 82. See also Corinne E. Blackmer a (...)

11Of the two men, whose relationship was particularly stormy, was it Andō or Kobayashi who decided to dress the girls as boys in order to play the male roles? While it remains historically unclear who was responsible for creating the otokoyaku, everything suggests that it was Andō, with his technical expertise, who came up with the idea as a means of avoiding the problems Kobayashi associated with a mixed troupe. Given Kobayashi’s desire to distance himself from and surpass Kabuki, it seems unlikely that he would have voluntarily decided to “reverse” the cross-dressing seen in this theatrical tradition. Andō, on the other hand, hailing as he did from the world of opera, would have been familiar with the concept of cross‑gender casting, notably the practice of casting female singers as males.16 These “trouser roles” (zubon’yaku ズボン役) were designed to emphasise the youthfulness of the male character—and occasionally his sexual immaturity—through the clear and angelic tones of a mezzo-soprano, thus allowing for greater use of instrumental ornamentation.17 The first cohorts trained by Andō in the art of opera singing had a vocal range that fell between soprano and mezzo-soprano. From a purely musicological standpoint, one can postulate that a direct relationship exists between the trouser roles seen in opera and the first otokoyaku of Takarazuka. This theory seems more plausible than the hypothesis of a “parallel construction” mirroring the emergence of Kabuki in the first decade of the seventeenth century and the male roles performed by Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国, ca. 1572‑1613), Kabuki’s founder, and her female dancers. Indeed, Kobayashi never made any mention of Okuni in his texts and referred only to Imperial Theater productions and the popularity of youth choirs as his sources of inspiration. In all likelihood, the origins of cross‑dressing in Takarazuka are thus to be found outside Kabuki.

  • 18 Takagi Shirō 高木史郎, “Hane ōgi o motta chōchōtachi” 羽根扇を持った蝶々たち [Butterflies with Feathered Fans], i (...)
  • 19 Founded as a replica of the Takarazuka Revue in 1922 by Shirai Matsujirō 白井松次郎 (1877‑1951), head o (...)

12Well before the otokoyaku role evolved and rose in popularity, it was the female roles (musumeyaku 娘役) that garnered the most attention. Takagi Shirō 高木史朗 (1915‑1985), a regular Takarazuka director, stressed the heavy presence of men in the audiences of the early decades, the ban on co-education in primary and secondary schools at that time being one potential reason for the appeal of an all-female troupe to these spectators.18 Despite the still‑thriving cliché of an overwhelmingly female audience, photographs and written accounts from the first twenty years of Takarazuka reveal extremely mixed audiences, reflecting Kobayashi’s desire to target families rather than individuals. It is generally agreed that the surge in the popularity of otokoyaku came about when the Takarazuka performer Kadota Ashiko 門田芦子 (1907‑1974) suddenly decided to cut her hair short during rehearsals for the 1932 show “Bouquet d’Amour” (Būke damūru ブーケダムール), an act that was immediately copied by the majority of her colleagues. Kadota no doubt took inspiration from the young Mizunoe Takiko 水の江滝子 (1915‑2009), a famous otokoyaku in the Shōchiku troupe,19 known to this day for being the first shōjo kageki performer to have cropped her hair, at the age of fifteen. Until then, it had been customary to hide the performer’s hair under a wig, hat or other props, which probably encouraged the practice of casting actresses alternately in male and female roles.

  • 20 Kurabayashi, “Opera no yume,” 227.

13This daring act marked the formal beginning of the theatrical construction of a new masculinity, one idealised through being performed via the female body. It propelled the otokoyaku into the centre of the audience’s attention, something that was not without provoking debate in the public arena. This new conception, associated with the term dansō no reijin (男装の麗人 “a beauty in men’s clothing”), helped to radically eroticise the otokoyaku, until then very childish in appearance. Initially the casting of otokoyaku and musumeyaku had been very fluid, allowing the first cohorts of students to play both male and female roles indifferently. The emergence of the concept of a “beauty in men’s clothing” led performers to specialise in a specific type of role to the near exclusion of the other. For the stage arts critic Kurabayashi Yasushi, the shift from a mixed audience to an essentially female one reflects more a loss of interest by male spectators rather than an increase in the number of female otokoyaku fans: while in the early years many men had been attracted to Takarazuka by the prospect of seeing beautiful young girls on stage, they were deterred by the evolution in the shows’ structure. As productions shifted from innocent collages of songs and dances to melodramatic romances portrayed by masculine-looking young actresses, male audiences lost the object of their fantasies, with musumeyaku now exclusively partnering “a beauty in men’s clothing” in theatricalised love affairs better suited to satisfying the dreams of a “female and adolescent” audience.20

Like tigers and wolves

14Let us now go back fifteen years to the genesis of the troupe.

15After a few years of experimentation during which the chorus gradually expanded its area of activity to cover the entire Hanshin region and make its Tokyo debut at the Imperial Theater in the summer of 1918, Kobayashi began to seriously consider the technical limits of an all‑girl troupe. He came to share the opinion of Andō—who five years earlier had suggested temporarily dressing the performers as boys—yet remained convinced that a derivative of opera could not be performed indefinitely without a mixed cast.

  • 21 Kobayashi Ichizō, 7 June 1946, in his monthly column for the magazine Kageki. Reprinted in Omoitsu (...)

At first, I was satisfied with an all-girl Takarazuka, but after five or six years of watching the shows I inevitably became critical: something was truly missing. Purity, honesty and beauty alone merely produced sweetness, which lacked a stimulating dose of spice and power—hence the idea of introducing boys.21

初めの間は女ばかりの宝塚に満足するけれど、五、六年連続して見物すると、いかにも物足りない、清く正しく美しくだけではただ甘いものを味わう程度で、辛さも強さも刺戟的分量が足らないから、どうしても文句が出る。その結果は男性加入の格論である。

  • 22 On the universal nature of this association, see Françoise Héritier, Masculin/Féminin [Male/Female (...)
  • 23 This issue merits greater discussion. In fact, Kobayashi was not very explicit about what he meant (...)

16Using this metaphor of taste, Kobayashi sought to highlight the absence of a key ingredient necessary for the recipe's success: namely power, a notion empirically associated with the masculine.22 To compensate for the lack of intensity in the troupe’s performances, Kobayashi thus decided to introduce young men into Takarazuka’s ranks. His intention was to bring his musical theatre one step closer to the polished finish of opera, yet without imitating it. The aim was to create a theatre that would be “specifically Japanese,” despite using Western instruments (piano, strings and brass in the place of shamisen, flutes and percussion instruments from the traditional arts). Hence his alternative use of the term Nihon kageki (日本歌歌劇), which in Kobayashi’s mind no doubt meant a theatre adapted to the tastes of a Japanese audience.23

  • 24 Nephew of the playwright and shingeki pioneer Tsubouchi Shōyō 坪内逍遥 (1859‑1935), Shikō was adopted (...)
  • 25 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 30.

17This first attempt at mixing genders came about amidst the creation in late 1918 of the Takarazuka School of Music and Musical Theatre (Takarazuka Ongaku Kageki Gakkō 宝塚音楽歌劇学校) and the disbanding of the girls’ chorus to form the Takarazuka Girls’ Revue (Takarazuka Shōjo Kagekidan 宝塚少女歌劇団), whose members were all graduates of this school. A “special curriculum” (senka 選科) was established in January 1919 to train the male students in the performing arts. Eight boys began studying under Tsubouchi Shikō 坪内士行 (1887‑1986)24 with a view to performing alongside girls at the end of the four‑year course. Another motive for creating this group was that Takarazuka’s young female recruits were maturing, and some were even beginning to feel dissatisfied with performing “girls’ musical theatre”.25 They needed partners with whom they could act in more sophisticated productions.

18The male recruits received similar training to the girls, focused on ballet, singing techniques, and traditional Japanese dance. Shikō also took the opportunity to introduce his students to reading Shakespeare and modern theatre. Although the boys were trained at Minoo—a city located around ten kilometres from the girls’ school in Takarazuka—, opposition to this planned introduction of boys soon proved to be unanimous. Despite its mere six years of existence, Takarazuka had already come to be rigidly associated in the public’s mind with an “all‑female troupe,” leading to a backlash against the male performers by the girls, their families and audiences:

  • 26 Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen 越し方九十年 [How I Have Lived these 90 Years] (Tokyo: Seiabō 青蛙房, 1 (...)

It was a female troupe to the last; a small world that was closed to men. The fact that repulsive and vulgar young males, like tigers and wolves, might share the stage with the troupe was categorically refused by both the girls and their parents, not to mention an even greater number of spectators. There was an incredible air of rebellion.26

あくまで乙女の団体であり、男子禁制の小天地であったので、狼のごとき虎のごとき、いやらしい汚らわしい男などと同じ舞台に立つことなどは、少女やその親たち、さらにそれよりはるかに数の多い見物が断じて許さぬ物凄い雰囲気があった。

  • 27 List based on Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 29‑30.
  • 28 Kageki, January 1920 issue, cited by Watanabe, Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō, 82.

19Faced with the overwhelming protests from the girls’ families, the boys’ curriculum was suspended in November 1919, after just ten months. Yet it was not the recruits’ social background that posed a problem; some of them were university graduates and had been personally selected by Kobayashi and Shikō. Half of this first intake of male recruits would subsequently enjoy fruitful, critically acclaimed careers in the arts. Notable examples of individuals who made their debut as “Takarazuka male students” include Hori Seiki 堀正旗 (1895‑1953) and Shirai Tetsuzō 白井鐵造 (1900‑1980), two of Takarazuka’s most important playwrights and stage directors during its first forty years. Also noteworthy are Aoyama Yoshio 青山圭男 (1903‑1967), a future choreographer for the Shōchiku Revue and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Azuma Gosaku 東吾作 (1905‑1989), a young actor who made his mark on the world of popular theatre under the stage name Tatsumi Ryūtarō 辰巳柳太郎27. This attempt to train male actors, singers and dancers to reinforce Takarazuka’s performances nonetheless came about too late in the reception process for fans of the troupe. Shikō, despite being the project’s artistic director, judged the initiative to have been “premature”.28 The antagonistic nature of each party’s position can only be underlined: the failure of this male initiative was not seen by its promotors as a definitive refusal, but rather as a problem of preparing the public, deemed to have been too immature to accept such a change—despite Kobayashi Ichizō having made it clear at the female troupe’s debut that this was merely a first step that in no way possessed the polished, accomplished feel necessary for a major national theatre. The growing popularity of Takarazuka as an all‑girls’ theatre also posed a further problem: namely, how to go beyond shōjo kageki to reach the next stage of the project and bring Kobayashi’s ideal of a “national popular theatre” to life.

Mixing male and female performers in a parallel troupe: the Kokuminza years

  • 29 Ibid., 114.
  • 30 This “Grand Theater,” with its unprecedented proportions (3,500 seats, the combined capacity of ma (...)
  • 31 In order to increase the number of performances and spectators, Takarazuka’s members were divided (...)
  • 32 Chōraku Michiyo 長楽美智代, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza” 坪内士行と宝塚国民座 [Tsubouchi Shikō and t (...)

20Kobayashi, relatively satisfied with the success of his Western‑style musical theatre performed by an all‑girl troupe, was convinced it had the potential to be recognised as a national art, should an opportunity arise to perform as a mixed cast.29 In the mid‑1920s, he developed a clearer picture of what his “national popular theatre” should resemble, as well as the orientation to follow in order to successfully create a mixed troupe. Naturally, the simplest solution would have been to introduce male performers directly into the existing troupe, creating a mixed‑sex unit supported by the imposing Takarazuka Daigekijō 宝塚大劇場30, the grand theater Kobayashi had recently had built. However, the failed attempt to introduce boys in 1919, at such an early stage in their training, had challenged the viability of this plan. In 1926, Kobayashi and Shikō thus decided to adopt a new strategy dissociating male recruits from the all‑female revue by establishing a separate group, the Takarazuka Kokuminza (宝塚国民座, “Takarazuka Popular Theatre”), employing experienced performers of both sexes. This project, initially scheduled to run for three years, was housed at the Chūgekijō 中劇場, a medium‑sized theater adjoining the Daigekijō, which remained exclusive to the female troupes.31 By establishing Kokuminza on the same site as Takarazuka, Kobayashi hoped to fend off the attacks on his all‑female theatre, deemed immature by certain critics and limited by its composition. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Kokuminza initiative, the decision to avoid endangering Takarazuka’s success by managing the two groups in parallel appears essentially to have been one of safety. It nonetheless seemed necessary to establish a new venture taking into account the dissatisfactions and hopes of spectators disappointed by “all‑girls’ musical theatre,” as well as former Takarasiennes looking for meatier scripts, a more complex theatrical form, and a more serious investment in their art.32

  • 33 Kokuminza was the first fixed troupe for Tatsumi, who had previously performed only with touring t (...)
  • 34 List based on Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen, 117. Hatsuse Otowako subsequently made a career (...)

21A casting call was launched in the March issue of Kageki, Takarazuka’s monthly news magazine, and auditions held to select performers for Kokuminza, mirroring the audition process for the female revue. Of the forty‑one fully trained and in some cases experienced artists who were chosen, two thirds were men. They included: Aoyama Yoshio and the future Tatsumi Ryūtarō,33 both members of Takarazuka’s first male cohort in 1919; Mori Eijirō 森英次郎 and Furukawa Toshitaka 古川利隆, former students at the Centre for Theatre Studies of the “Literary Association” (Bungei Kyōkai 文藝協会) launched by Tsubouchi Shōyō; Yamaji Jun 山路潤, who later became famous playing “supporting roles” (wakiyaku 脇役) in shinpa theatre; and Matsumoto Kōtarō 松本幸太郎, a specialist in Japanese dance. Among the girls chosen for the Kokuminza troupe were Wakamiya Yoshiko 若宮美子 from the Tsukiji Little Theatre company, founded by shingeki pioneer Osanai Kaoru 小山内薫 (1881‑1928); Miyoshi Eiko 三好栄子 (1896‑1963) from the world of shinkokugeki (new national theatre); and Sekimori Sumako 関守須磨子 and Hatsuse Otowako 初瀬音羽子 (1902‑1993), both former Takarasiennes.34 Thus, the Kokuminza troupe appears to have been a diverse group designed to arouse the audience’s curiosity by offering a colourful range of performance skills.

  • 35 Takarazuka Kokuminza, no. 1 (May 1926): 1‑4, in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Ko (...)

22Shikō publicly set out the troupe’s orientations in the first issue of Takarazuka Kokuminza 宝塚国民座, an official publication modelled on Kageki. The idea was not exactly to break with the techniques and contents of the “theatre of the past” (in reference to kyūgeki), nor to create an experimental new art, but rather to propose the theatrical form best suited to the contemporary tastes of a popular audience, in the quantitative sense of the term. To this end, Shikō recommended an eclectic mix of old and new, Japanese and Western, drama and comedy, performance theatre and musical theatre. In this sense, his stance resembled the compromise previously suggested by Kobayashi and his artistic team for the female Takarazuka troupe. Furthermore, he proposed treating actors and actresses as equals, expressing high expectations for a system devoid of hierarchy at a time when the star system was something of a norm in Japanese theatre: few troupes had their own venue and entrepreneurs relied on stars to “sell” their shows. In this context, Kokuminza was intended to introduce harmony and balance between the actors. Shikō also nurtured the hope of bringing together authors working exclusively for the troupe in order to create new libretti in tune with the times, “like Shakespeare at the Elizabethan court or Molière at the court of Louis XIV”.35 As well as being a common practice in Kabuki, where a theatre company might employ in‑house playwrights, this system was practiced at Takarazuka with a jealous exclusivity. Authors were—and still are—supposed to work exclusively for Takarazuka, the production of material for other troupes or theatre styles being subject to authorisation by the company’s management. The aim was partly to avoid authors working for a direct competitor, in particular the all-female Shōchiku troupe, which had notoriously “head-hunted” certain authors actively employed by Takarazuka during its early years, such as Hisamatsu Issei 久松一声 (1874‑1943).

The gulf between ideal and reality

  • 36 This can be seen as a consequence of Shikō being less concerned with music than Kobayashi; Watanab (...)

23Kokuminza’s first run of performances in May 1926 faithfully reflected Shikō’s desire for eclecticism, featuring a Western‑style play, a modern social drama and a historical comedy. It received a lukewarm response from critics, who deemed it heavy on theatre and light on music.36 Doubts rapidly arose within Kokuminza and Takarazuka as to the viability of the group. Stung by the criticism of his overly ambitious plans, Shikō wrote a blistering response entitled “True Critics” (Shin no hihyōka 真の批評家) in the third issue of Takarazuka Kokuminza:

  • 37 Text reprinted in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza,” 117.

Ultimately, the true critics are the unprejudiced masses. Our Takarazuka National Popular Theatre is overly criticised, both from within and without. Criticise if you will, but only after a certain amount of time, when you have seen it for yourselves; until then, give us six months to a year. Our aim is to build the foundations of a new Japanese theatre, an entertaining theatre in tune with our times. Nobody objects to that. Our particularity is our desire to do it through music and dance… Why are we being attacked from all sides after barely one or two runs? 37

真の批評家は結局虚心平気な民衆がある。我が宝塚国民座は内外ともにあまり批判家が多すぎる。時をして、又、一般見物をして批判せしめよ。そのためには、半歳一年の時日をもってせよ。我々の目指すところは新日本劇の樹立である。新時代に適した面白い芝居の創生である。これに対しては誰も異議を唱へるまい。しかもこれを音楽舞踊入りでやらうという所に宝塚国民座の特徴である。(中略)第一回・第二回ならずしてすでに四面楚歌の声を聞くとは何事ぞ。

24Judging by the opinions that were subsequently published, Kokuminza performances continued to receive mixed reviews. The influence of shingeki no doubt complicated Shikō’s task: the Western plays staged by the Kokuminza troupe largely came across as awkward and overly foreign. At the end of the first year, the figures were disastrous: the troupe was struggling to fill the Chūgekijō, attracting on average three to four hundred spectators, although a summer 1927 performance of Hamlet, in which Shikō reprised his breakthrough role from the Imperial Theater, was reasonably successful. To make matters worse, a dispute broke out that August between Kobayashi and Shikō over one of the plays staged by the troupe. Shikō decided to temporarily abandon his activities as Kokuminza’s artistic director and to unwind by travelling around Japan. Although Kobayashi trusted and respected his creative team, Shikō’s ardent and impassioned personality, just like Andō before him, sometimes soured his relationship with the entrepreneur. This conflict between the ideological, economic and artistic priorities of Takarazuka, both past and present, illustrates the fragile balance underpinning a company with such totalising ambitions in creative and commercial terms. It must be stressed just how dependent Takarazuka is on these three tectonic plates, which invariably generate periodic or lasting friction, usually caused by management policies or, more rarely, by the daring decisions of the company’s writer-directors.

  • 38 Takarazuka Kokuminza no. 16 (January 1928): 32‑33, in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takaraz (...)

25Having returned in 1928, Shikō turned his attentions to the rise of Italy’s far right in his play Mussolini. The global political situation had begun to impact artistic circles and Shikō was well aware how the context of a period influenced the content of the works being staged. In an article entitled “The Theatrical World Reacts” (Handō no gekikai 反動の劇界), he noted that Japanese theatre was growing particularly dark due to the great respect shown for authors like Anton Chekhov (1860‑1904) and Henrik Ibsen (1828‑1906), whose influence explained the writing of the many “suicide dramas” (jisatsugeki 自殺劇) staged at that time. Seeing the recent trend for comedies as a counterbalance to “Ibsen-style plays,” he suggested that Kokuminza follow in this same vein, possibly using the writings of Okamoto Kidō 岡本綺堂 (1872‑1939). The aim was to create new comedies in tune with the climate of the time—a challenging climate that no doubt created a desire for plays that allowed audiences to unwind yet still explored the major issues of the day. He saw theatre neither as a “place for preaching” (sekkyōba 説教場) nor as pure entertainment. Its true value lay instead in “pleasing audiences while making them think; delighting them while providing an emotional experience”.38

  • 39 The performance was a sell-out, with Tsubouchi Shōyō’s play once again making an enormous impressi (...)

26The year 1928 was also marked by a Kokuminza performance of one of Tsubouchi  Shōyō’s most powerful and inspired plays, The Hermit (En no gyōja 役の行者, 1916), which had already been staged at the Tsukiji Little Theatre by Osanai Kaoru in 1926. Keen to add music and staging in the style of a grand opera, Shikō called on his uncle, who came and spent four days helping him put the play together. As critically acclaimed as Hamlet, The Hermit remains one of Kokuminza’s formal triumphs. In the spring of 1929, just before it began its run of Othello—once again adapted by Shikō—, the troupe travelled to Tokyo to raise money by performing both Hamlet and The Hermit at the Waseda Theatre Museum (Waseda Engeki Hakubutsukan 早稲田演劇博物館).39 Nevertheless, despite their intellectual prestige, neither Shōyō nor Kobayashi were able to ensure the survival of the Kokuminza troupe: viewed in retrospect, the Tokyo performances resemble a final display of fireworks before the group’s inevitable dissolution. In between these two isolated successes, the group was forced to perform alongside other troupes in order to ensure a full house. In dire straits, it gradually became a touring theatre troupe as a means of surviving. The content of its programmes was modified and henceforth consisted essentially of short one-act plays known as “varieties.”

  • 40 Students who had left Takarazuka (by choice or by order?) in an attempt to save Kokuminza were giv (...)
  • 41 Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen, 121.

27While Kokuminza was struggling to win over audiences, Takarazuka was enjoying renewed popularity by introducing the revue form to Japan via the staggering success of Mon Paris (モン巴里, 1927), penned and directed by Kishida Tatsuya 岸田辰彌 (1892‑1944), younger brother of the painter Kishida Ryūsei 岸田劉生 (1891‑1929). The novelty of the revue genre, centred on the vitality of its music and dance, provided a stark contrast to the “fairy‑tale operas” (otogi kageki お伽歌劇) and “historical dramas” (jidai‑mono 時代物) that had previously formed the basis of Takarazuka’s repertoire. It clearly determined the direction of subsequent productions, pushing them towards dynamism and the cult of magnificence. In an effort to make its performances profitable by harnessing the stars of the moment, the Kokuminza troupe toured Kyūshū in May 1930 with a play by Kishida, bolstering its cast with a number of Takarazuka stars.40 However, with Parisette パリゼット in August 1930, Shirai Tetsuzō took Takarazuka and the revue genre to the height of their popularity, to the detriment of Kokuminza. Shikō made one last‑ditch attempt to save the company by introducing a unified ticket price of fifty sen in September 1930, but the impact was limited and he ultimately had to resign himself to disbanding the moribund troupe in November that year. How can we explain this failure after four and a half years of existence, and despite a promising cast and strong ideological convictions? Shikō gave two main reasons: his own powerlessness and, more prosaically, the closeness of the Chūgekijō to the Daigekijō. Contrary to expectations, Kokuminza suffered undeniably from its proximity to Takarazuka, the competition from which rendered any other initiative practically invisible.41 Despite drawing visitors from Osaka and Kobe with plays like Hamlet and The Hermit, the troupe was unable to survive in the shadow of the all-girl revue.

  • 42 Quoting the example of the Edo-period actors paid one thousand ryō per season (千両役者 senryō yakusha(...)

28In a similar vein, the disastrous experience of the Takarazuka Variety 宝塚バラエティー performances staged at the Chūgekijō in 1932 is also worthy of mention. The idea was to break with the romantic-dramatic style of Takarazuka productions (with the exception of revues) and propose comedy shows pairing Takarasiennes with male artists specially invited for the occasion, such as Mon Paris director Kishida Tatsuya, actor and singer Yamano Ichirō 山野一郎 (1899‑1958), and well-known comedian Furukawa Roppa 古川緑波 (1903‑1961).42 However, Takarazuka’s group strength seemed to be compromised by incorporating headline elements from outside the troupe. Unable to unite audiences, the Takarazuka Variety experiment was terminated in August 1932 after just two shows.

29The lukewarm public response to Kokuminza and Takarazuka Variety did not shake Kobayashi’s desire to create a mixed Takarazuka-style troupe that would be famous throughout Japan. In an article published in the Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun on 3 June 1939, he reiterated his ideas on the future that Western instruments held for Japanese music, and firmly stressed his intention to train young men once again the following spring, his aim being to expand the range of his all-female opera and even elevate it to higher standards. Despite being thwarted initially by the outbreak of World War II, this desire generated concrete initiatives during the postwar period, spurred by a demobilised young soldier whose actions hastened the creation of Kobayashi Ichizō’s long-desired male section.

A second chance?

  • 43 On 29 February 1944 the Japanese government issued a “First Emergency Measures Ordinance” (daiichi (...)
  • 44 Curiously, little mention is made in Takarazuka’s official chronicles of this final attempt to int (...)
  • 45 All of these recruitment campaigns generated a considerable response, attracting between 170 and 2 (...)
  • 46 In alphabetical order, this first cohort consisted of Jōkin Fumio (Kanbara Kunio 神原邦夫), Morimoto Y (...)
  • 47 A passionate defender of the ryōsai kenbo 良妻賢母 ideology (“good wife, wise mother”) that had been e (...)

30In the autumn of 1945, Kobayashi received a letter from a stranger named Jōkin Fumio 上金文雄 (1923‑2005), who described himself as a long‑standing admirer of Takarazuka. He had seen Mon Paris as a four-year-old and retained vivid memories of it. Now a singer himself, he expressed his desire to join the troupe as a performer and suggested that Takarazuka stage musicals using a mixed cast. Jōkin entertained few illusions about getting a reply, so it was with great surprise that he found himself receiving a postcard from Kobayashi inviting him to contact his “right-hand man” at the Revue, the administrative director Hikita Ichirō 引田一郎. The speed of Kobayashi’s response demonstrates that, as he had expressed in 1939, he continued to nurture the idea of incorporating male performers into Takarazuka as soon as the company was able to return to normal business at the Daigekijō, then requisitioned by the American occupying forces.43 A casting call was soon placed in the daily press for an audition to be held in the winter of 1945. This was the first of four campaigns held between December 1945 and January 1952 to recruit young men.44 Despite the response generated, few of the candidates interested Kobayashi and Hikita, who had immediately recruited Jōkin due to the young man’s impressive determination.45 Two singers who had graduated from specialist schools and two former members of the Takarazuka orchestra were selected for the first cohort of male students, who began training in a separate rehearsal space to the girls.46 Kobayashi often lamented the difficulty of finding high calibre male performers, in contrast to the plethora of “satisfactory” candidates for the position of female singers and dancers. Well known for his conservative views on marriage as the only desirable destiny for a woman, he explained the differing quality of candidates in the following terms:47

When all is said and done, a nineteen‑ or twenty-year-old woman’s decision to devote herself to the stage does not determine her future; it is simply one means of covering part of her wedding expenses before she marries… However, the situation is very different for a young man in his twenties. This is a crucial time when he must choose the path he will walk for the rest of his life. He cannot decide to become a stage actor in such a determined manner. When thinking about one’s future and one’s abilities, it is not possible to make such a decision lightly.

女の方は何といっても、十九、二十位の時に舞台人となるといふことが決してその将来を決定的にするものではない、言はば結婚前には結婚費用の一端を稼ぐよすがとなる位のものである。[…] ところが、男となると、条件が甚だしく異なるので、二十代の男といふものは、その将来の進むべき道をここで決定すべき大事な時期にあるわけだから、中々思ひ切って舞台人になるといふふんぎりもつきかねる。将来のことや自分の才能など反省すると容易に軽々たる行動が出来かねるというわけだ。

31He did, however, see an exception to this situation in the way Japan’s traditional performing arts were passed down between the generations:

  • 48 These two excerpts are taken from Kobayashi Ichizō, Shibai zange 芝居ざんげ [Theatrical Confessions], o (...)

As for Kabuki, acting is a family profession passed down from generation to generation. Those born into an acting family or raised by one as an adopted child are pushed onto the stage at a young age—whether they like it or not—in order to keep the profession alive… Since the greatest actors we have ever known were produced by such an environment, I wonder if it might not be the best way to obtain excellent male performers, and not only in Kabuki.48

歌舞伎劇の方では、俳優といふ職業を一つの家業として、親から子、子から孫へと伝へてゐる。俳優の家に生まれたもの、或いは養子として貰はれて来たものは、世襲の家業を継いでゆくといふ意味で、有無を言はせず子供の頃から舞台に立たされてゐる。[…] 今までの多くの名優がかうして生れ来ったことを思ふと、歌舞伎劇でなくとも、総じて男の舞台人といふものは、結局かういふ方法によらざれば、優れたものは生み出し得ないのではないかと思ふ。

  • 49 A specialist in ballet, Nishino Kōzō taught Takarazuka’s female recruits and choreographed several (...)

32Kobayashi did not see a vocation for the stage as indispensable for a woman, in the sense that her status as an artist was ideally only to be temporary. On the other hand, men were required to show a level of talent and commitment that went well beyond what was expected of the female recruits. And so it was that many candidates were rejected at the second audition in March 1946, with just three individuals being retained: Inoue Tōru 井上亨 (Koizumi Tetsu 小泉徹), Mugishima Haruo 麦島春夫 (Komatsu Haruo 小松春夫) and Nishino Kōzō 西野皓三.49 Social developments in the spring of 1946 no doubt encouraged Kobayashi’s decision to incorporate men into a structure that had previously been fiercely defended by audiences as exclusively female. Indeed, the promulgation of a new education system that would gradually introduce co‑education to high schools made this a good time to attempt to do the same at Takarazuka, an institution that was itself modelled on school. Furthermore, scriptwriters working for the company also gradually came to support the idea of a mixed troupe. Hori Seiki, who at the time was staging a new version of Carmen for the reopening of the Daigekijō (April 1946), wrote an article in favour of supplementing the troupe with male voices:

  • 50 Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun, 10 May 1946, cited in Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 50.

There was something missing from the all‑female troupe. I myself often considered mixing [male and female] voices, if only using an invisible chorus off stage. Employing only women does not allow the true feel of Carmen, which is currently being staged, to come through and thus limits the choice of operas for an all‑female cast. When we eat the same set‑menu all year round, it is only natural to sometimes want to try something à la carte. Of course, just because we suddenly incorporate men does not mean that we can stage real operas… Nevertheless, in the near future we will no doubt need to add male voices, if only as an invisible chorus.50

女ばかり、そこには随分物足りなさがあった。顔の見えない舞台裏のコーラスだけでも混声すればと思ったことも幾度もあった。今演っているカルメンにしても女だけでは到底その味が出せないし女ばかりとなると自然に題材は限定され、年中定食ばかり食っているといったわけで、やはり時には一品料理もほしいのが人間である。しかし、今急に男が入ったからといって勿論本格的オペラなどやれるわけもない。[…] だが顔の見えないコーラス だけは近く男声を混へることになろう。

Figure 1. Some of the trainees from Takarzuka’s male section, 1946

Figure 1. Some of the trainees from Takarzuka’s male section, 1946

From left to right: Morimoto Yoshimasa, Mugishima Haruo, Jōkin Fumio, Nishino Kōzō, Inoue Tōru, Sakurai Haruo

© Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center

  • 51 In a note written in December 1947, Kobayashi revealed that he had contacted the “Asahi Chorus” (A (...)

33Dissatisfied by the technical constraints imposed by an all-female troupe, Hori was the first to suggest the idea of employing a boys’ chorus. However, given Takarazuka’s past attempts, he did not believe it was necessary to have men appear on stage and instead recommended a “two‑part system” (nibusei 二部制), whereby the Revue would continue to perform all‑girls’ musicals while staging operettas as parallel projects involving boys, resembling the duality seen between Takarazuka and Kokuminza. Nevertheless, for Kobayashi, the vocal ensemble was merely a first step towards a more radical change: after adding male voices in the form of invisible choirs or via records,51 his idea was to gradually cast male actors in side productions (such as shingeki-style modern dramas) and then mould performers tailor‑made for the revue genre. For all this, his desire for a mixed‑sex Takarazuka did not mean doing away with the otokoyaku. He wrote that:

  • 52 12 January 1947, in ibid., 55‑56.

I must stress that adding [actors] does not mean having them replace the otokoyaku. As long as the revue stage remains a world of “beauty and dreams,” I have no intention of abandoning the beauty of women dressed as men. Just like the onnagata in shinpa, otokoyaku have a beauty and role that are all their own…52

然しそれはあくまでも「加入」であって男役に置きかわるものではない。レヴィユゥの舞台が「美と夢の世界」である限り「男装の美しさ」は捨てたくはない。新派の女形の於ける如くレヴィユゥの舞台には「男役」でなくては出せない美しさや役があるのだから・・・。

  • 53 Hennion, La Naissance du théâtre moderne à Tokyo, 182.

34The comparison with shinpa theatre is significant in more ways than one: although this theatrical form had brought about a complete break with classical theatre by encouraging the appearance of female performers, it nonetheless featured highly hybrid casts blending actresses and onnagata, despite their antinomic positions.53 Although it was an isolated case, the nervous breakdown suffered by Mizutani Yaeko 水谷八重子 (1905‑1979) after she appeared in a mixed cast alongside the onnagata Hanayagi Shōtarō 花柳章太郎 (1864‑1955), due to his performance being more authentic, feminine and convincing than hers, illustrates just how difficult it was to reconcile the presence on stage of actors of both sexes playing the same gender, whether masculine or feminine. In the case of Takarazuka, the problem was slightly different in that—and this distinguished Takarazuka from Kabuki in particular—the otokoyaku were not required to portray a true masculinity that audiences could emulate off stage. What was desired was an alternative, idealised masculinity that worked particularly well in the dreamlike world of the revue: in short, a masculinity that was inaccessible to male performers. More prosaically, as long as the otokoyaku remained an object of fascination that ensured seats were filled, it would have been a misstep for Kobayashi, as a businessman and strategist, to replace them with male actors. Based on previous attempts, it seemed even less likely that the omnipotent public would accept such a change, indeed such a revolution.

  • 54 The official title of these performances, “The Takarazuka Music School Students’ Christmas Show” ( (...)

35Despite Kobayashi’s grand declarations on the gradual incorporation of men, the company’s male recruits were forced to bide their time. Aside from a brief appearance by the first cohort at a gala variety performance in Nishinomiya in December 1945, the male section had no opportunity to perform on stage, even in an “invisible” capacity. The section’s members nonetheless persisted with their training in the hopes of one day being able to perform before thousands of spectators at the Daigekijō. Yet for the entire year of 1947 they had to content themselves with just two days of performances at the Chūgekijō in December, at the company’s free annual show for readers of Kageki. And even then, they appeared in just two plays within the copious five-part programme.54 Watching in the audience was the mangaka Tezuka Osamu 手塚治虫 (1928‑1989), a native of Takarazuka city and well‑known aficionado of the troupe. This remarkable mixed‑cast performance aroused very different feelings in him from the Revue’s usual shows and left a lasting impression, which he described in the following terms:

  • 55 Tezuka Osamu, Kisō Tengai 奇想天外 [Bizarre Ideas], October 1977 issue, in Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takara (...)

[The male recruits] appeared on stage just once, as an experiment, in an operetta. The men and women thus performed in a Tōhō‑style musical. When the girls came on stage I was struck for the first time by their femininity. When they were cast alone, the girls were not an object of desire. But for the first time I found them sexy: performing alongside men highlighted their eroticism.55

彼らが一種のテストケースとして舞台に立って一度だけオペレッタをやった。つまり男と女が東宝ミュージカルのようなものをやった。そのとき女が出てきたとき、あああれは女だなと初めて思った。つまり、女だけ見ていても性の対象にならない。男が出てきて女が色っぽいと、初めてセクシーだなという感じがした。

  • 56 Kobayashi Ichizō, Shibai zange, 326‑328. While the introduction of the revue genre had led to a re (...)
  • 57 Kawasaki Kenko 川崎賢子, Takarazuka to iu yūtopia 宝塚というユートピア [A Utopia Named Takarazuka] (Tokyo: Iwana (...)
  • 58 In 1930 Shirai attempted to sidestep the problem by introducing a novel term for Takarazuka’s fema (...)

36As Tezuka points out, the eroticism of the female body, until then “erased” by the all‑girl cast, was suddenly revealed by the presence on stage of “biological” males. The concerns as to the benefit of introducing men are thus easy to understand. When Kobayashi first set out to create a “national theatre,” he had insisted on the need to offer wholesome, family‑friendly shows that could be watched by any kind of audience, and staunchly rejected nudity and eroticism on the grounds that they were artistically unnecessary.56 In fact, this niche was already occupied by the all‑female Shōchiku Revue, historically Takarazuka’s greatest rival, which offered a more sensual and mature style of performance that was sometimes nicknamed “Takarazuka for adults”.57 The vocabulary chosen to describe Takarazuka’s performers also helped to infantilise them, since they were officially referred to as “students” rather than “actresses,” considered a morally disreputable profession for women in Japan from the late nineteenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century58. Similarly, in contrast to the term “man’s role” (otokoyaku), there was no such thing as a “woman’s role” (onnayaku), since Kobayashi had preferred the term “girl’s role” (musumeyaku) for its connotations of purity and naivety. Despite adopting a line of conduct on stage that excluded any improper scenes, the risk of the musumeyaku being suddenly eroticised, and consequently, of Takarazuka’s identity being radically challenged, perhaps explains in part why the male section was kept indefinitely out of sight. It seems unlikely, however, that the idealised masculinity of the otokoyaku could have been eliminated by the virile presence of male actors. Based on iconographic documents from the day, the physical style of the male performers seems to have remarkably resembled the androgynous dandies beloved by fans of the otokoyaku, featuring heavy make-up and a particular focus on elegance. In fact, the male recruits reported having learned stage make-up techniques from their female colleagues, which explains the uniform aesthetic. Nevertheless, despite this apparent solidarity, actors and Takarasiennes viewed each other in much more complex terms.

The Takarasienne perspective on male performers

  • 59 Kimira wa shugyō no mi dakara mada hayai! Ani to imōto to omotte benkyō shinasai.
    君らは修業の身だからまだ早い!兄と (...)

37Although they sat at different tables in the canteen and trained in separate rooms, students of both sexes would often cross paths on the company’s premises. Officially, male and female performers were on quite friendly terms. Crushes even developed between students, involving sugary love letters and romantic rendezvous. Jōkin himself recalled having sent a love letter to Yachigusa Kaoru 八千草薫 (1931‑), admired at the time by all the Takarazuka boys. He was sharply reprimanded by the troupe’s manager Hikita, who summoned him along with several of his fellow performers and gave them the following lecture: “It’s a bit early for that; you are still in training! Consider yourselves to be big brothers and little sisters, and concentrate on your studies.”59 Following this dressing down, relations between girls and boys were closely supervised and it was absolutely forbidden for them to speak to one another, even if they were to bump into each other outside Takarazuka. The school had to remain a place for learning and not serve as an introduction to sensuality.

38Just as in 1919, the presence of young men at Takarazuka was far from being unanimously approved by the Takarasiennes. The actress Ai Michiko 阿井美千子 (1930‑), who joined the Revue in 1946 before being lured to cinema and the Tōei film company in 1954, confirms the girls’ staunch opinions on the “intruders”:

  • 60 Ibid.

They were always there whenever we went on stage, but the performing students, just like the audience, pretended not to see them. We felt sorry for them. Almost all of the students were against the presence of boys: some of the girls had joined [Takarazuka] because they thought it would be a “garden of women,” so there was resistance to the very idea of males intruding in it.60

私たちが舞台に立っていると、すぐそばに(男子研究生の)顔があったんですけど、出演している生徒もお客さまもあえて見ないようにしているという感じでしたね。私らはかわいそうやと思いました。生徒の中では、『女の園』やと思って入ってきたのに、男の人がいてはったというので抵抗感もあって、ほとんどの生徒が男の人が いるのに反対でした。

39Following the first two intakes of male students, a survey was conducted in the May 1946 issue of Kageki among twenty‑three star Takarasiennes of the day. They were asked for their opinions on, among other things, the inclusion of males at Takarazuka. Just as Ai Michiko reported, there was widespread opposition among the Takarasiennes. With the exception of Kamiyo Nishiki and Yūhi Akane, everyone expressed their objection to the idea, with some qualifying their stance by suggesting that the presence of males should be reserved for an alternative, Kokuminza‑style venture.

I’m against it. There might currently be a great need in Japan for mixed-sex musicals, but we want to preserve the purity, honesty and beauty for which Takarazuka stands. (Koshiji Fubuki 越路吹雪, 1924‑1980)

反対です。男性加入に依る歌劇は現在の日本に大いに望ましい事ですが、私たちは宝塚歌劇のモットーたる「 清く、正しく、美しく」を保ちたいと思います。

If male performers are incorporated into the troupe, the unique feel of Takarazuka would disappear… We want to keep Takarazuka as it is today, make it better through our own strength, and keep the idea of adding males forever at bay. (Otowa Nobuko 乙羽信子, 1924‑1994)

今もし男性加入が実行されれば、今までの宝塚特有の雰囲気は消滅するでしょう。[…] 永久に男性加入という言葉は私たちから縁遠いものとして今のままの歌劇団を私たちの力でよきものにしてゆきたい気持ちいっぱいです。

Since the dreamlike atmosphere that characterises Takarazuka’s shows is preserved by its all‑female cast, I am against the introduction of boys into the troupe today. However, I would support the idea if actresses are chosen to perform with them in a completely separate troupe, under a different name. (Kasugano Yachiyo 春日野八千代, 1915‑2012)

宝塚歌劇の持つ夢の様な雰囲気は女性ばかりの劇団に於てこそ保たれるものと思いますから今の「宝塚」に男性を加入させる事は反対です。しかし、全然別のものとして劇団の名前も新しく付け、共演する女優も新たに選ぶのなら賛成します。

I support the introduction of boys in that it would allow us to stage real operas and grand shows. (Kamiyo Nishiki 神代錦, 1917‑1989)

オペラ、グランドショウ等を男性加入により本格的にやるのは賛成です。

  • 61 Ibid., 76‑77.

I agree with the idea of incorporating boys and would like us to stage more and more authentic operas. I believe that Japan is capable of producing shows as good as anything in the West.61. (Yūhi Akane 夕映あかね, dates unknown)

男性加入結構です。そして、どんどんと本格的なオペラを上演して欲しいと思います。日本でも外国に負けない位なものが出来る様になると信じます。

40The handful of opinions expressed in favour of a mixed troupe echo Kobayashi’s main criticism regarding the limits of an all‑female opera. This argument had fuelled copious debate in Kageki right from its first issue in 1918: while an all‑girl troupe was a wonderful publicity generator, artistically it had a certain “immaturity” (mijukusei 未熟性) and imperfection, which could nonetheless be offset by a mixed cast. The ultimate objective was to achieve the “genuine” (honkakuteki 本格的) feel of a real opera performance. Unsurprisingly, these same terms appear in the opinions expressed by Takarasiennes in support of adding males. No doubt they themselves sought to add greater depth to their performances (in fact, in his notes Kobayashi Ichizō openly admitted to finding some of his former female recruits superior in mixed-sex productions). Yet the troupe had found fame as an all‑female outfit, however immature and imperfect it might be. The majority of actresses and fans were attached to this form and feared that altering the foundations of Takarazuka would shatter its “characteristic” harmony. Everything thus hung on popular demand. A similar survey was conducted among the general public in September 1946 in the form of a round‑table discussion at which anonymous individuals could give their opinion on a mixed‑sex Takarazuka. Advancing essentially the same arguments as the Takarasiennes, the audience came out unanimously against such a change. Although frustrated by this outcome, Kobayashi was conscious that the public could not be forced to accept new conventions that it neither wanted nor needed:

  • 62 Kobayashi, May 1948, Omoitsuki, 102‑103.

When should boys be added [to Takarazuka]? This question should not be answered by theatrical theory nor by management lines but rather by popular desire. Such a desire will necessarily emerge the day audiences are no longer satisfied with an all‑female theatre, when they have accumulated a certain amount of knowledge on world theatre. Only then can a mixed troupe become a reality for the first time. In the meantime, I see this as a preparatory phase, a training phase… I had to resolve myself to concluding that, even with the best actors, a mixed-sex theatre was, for the Japanese sensibility of the day, less interesting than an all‑female theatre.62

いつ男性を加入すべきか―との問題を解決するのは演劇理論や経営方針が決定するのではなく、民衆の要求が決定すべき問題です。民衆が女性だけの演劇に飽き足らなくなった日、民衆が世界演劇の水準に達する教養を積んだ日に必然的に起きる要求によって、その時初めて男性加入を実現すべきで、それまではまず準備期であり、訓練期であると存じます。[…] 男性が加入したら、相当いい俳優を使ったにもかかわらず、遥かに女性だけの方が、現在の日本人の感覚では面白く感じるという結論に満足せねばなりませんでした。

Voices in the shadows

  • 63 The technique of using a kage chorus in a booth still exists today. Actresses located off stage ad (...)

41Following this “preparatory” phase, the boys gradually came to have a concrete role during performances; as long as Takarazuka audiences refused their presence on stage, their contribution would be limited, as initially suggest by Hori, to being a “shadow chorus” (kage chorus 陰コーラス) designed to give greater depth to the vocal score. Hidden from spectators and Takarasiennes in a booth located stage right, the boys were to read short lines of text at strategic moments in the script and sing parts whose register, ranging from tenor to baritone (defined by some music encyclopaedias as baritenor), was too low to be properly mastered by the otokoyaku. In 1934, the introduction of microphones on stands to Japan had led the otokoyaku to abandon the soprano register that characterised Takarazuka singing, independently of the specialisation of roles, and to accentuate the middle and lower-middle registers in order to create a contrast with the timbre of the musumeyaku. The use of audio amplifiers was instrumental in bringing about this evolution in vocal technique. In terms of tessitura, otokoyaku always sing—with varying degrees of ease—in the contralto range with a deep and full vocal quality, one octave above baritone. Nevertheless, their chest voice remains forced and breathy, and cannot objectively be compared with the power and amplitude that characterise opera singing. It thus seemed wise to add consonance via a “shadow chorus,” or occasionally a “front-stage chorus” (omote chorus 表コーラス) when the boys sang from the orchestra pit, which in those days was shallower. Nevertheless, these front‑stage choruses seem to have been used less frequently than their booth‑bound counterparts, and in any case, the boys did not gain in visibility.63 At most, audiences could see the top of the singers’ heads, who could easily be mistaken for orchestra members.

  • 64 During the entire month of August 1951, the troupe performed at a Daigekijō filled beyond capacity (...)
  • 65 Sakaguchi Ango, “Ango no shin nihon chiri – Takarazuka joshi senryōgun – Hanshin no maki” 安吾の新日本地理 (...)

42One play made a particular impression on audiences and the members of the male section who “participated” in the project: Yu the Beautiful (Gubijin 虞美人, 1951), a tale adapted and directed by Shirai Tetsuzō from the novel Xiang Yu and Liu Bang (Kōu to Ryūhō 項羽と劉邦, 1917) by Nagayo Yoshirō 長與善郎 (1888‑1961). Set in Ancient China, this sweeping epic recounts the turbulent end of the Qin Dynasty in a visual and dramatic crescendo. The dramatic storyline reaches a climax in the war that raged from 206 to 202 BCE between the Chu, led by Xiang Yu (in Japanese, Kōu), and the Han, led by Liu Bang (Ryūhō). Shirai took the innovative decision of presenting the play as a stand-alone show (ippondate 一本立て). Comprised of thirty‑two scenes, Gubijin was Takarazuka’s first long-format play. It lasted four hours and allowed for unprecedented plot development. Despite the numerous side stories, these were woven together by the play’s simple main theme: namely, the love of Xiang Yu, Hegemon‑Prince of the Chu, for his young wife Yu Ji, said to be greater than his love for his kingdom. The vocal contributions of the male section were greater and more precisely calculated than ever, with Shirai counting on this new resource to raise the intensity of the dramatic material to heights never reached by the all-female troupe. Photographs and publications from the day all bear witness to the enthusiastic response garnered from the public.64 In some ways, Gubijin represented the high point of “national popular theatre.” It extended beyond Takarazuka’s usual fan base to reach a wide audience and was heavily commented on in the media for its elaborate stage design and intense, spectacular style. The writer Sakaguchi Ango 坂口安吾 (1906‑1955) published a piquant essay of his first experience watching Takarazuka in the October 1951 issue of Bungei Shunjū 文藝春秋. Having seen Gubijin, he described the performance as “very grown‑up” (suggesting that Takarazuka’s reputation as an all‑girl theatre was still very much alive) and lauded Shirai as a “great author, one of the few that exist in Japan.” 65 However, he made no mention of the use of boys’ voices, designed to elevate the show to a new level, and essentially stressed the “quality of the otokoyaku, which exceeded [his] expectations,” as well as the gracefulness of the two generals played by Kasugano Yachiyo and Kamiyo Nishiki, who seemed in the novelist's eyes to be “giants” on their horses.

  • 66 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 181‑182.
  • 67 Booklet Takarazuka kageki jūgatsu hanagumi kōen kaisetsu to haiyaku 寶塚歌劇十月花組公演―解説と配役 [October Pe (...)

43For his part, Ueda Shinji 植田紳爾 (1933‑), who penned Takarazuka’s adaptations of The Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no Bara ベルサイユのばら, first staged in 1974) and Gone with the Wind (Kaze to tomo ni sarinu 風と共に去りぬ, first staged in 1977), provided a description of the show that included these “off‑stage” males and underlined the chorus’ impact during the final scene. In the famous scene depicting the Battle of Gaixia, which ended with the founding of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang’s soldiers surround Xiang Yu’s surviving troupes and attempt to break their spirit by singing a Chu song (shimen soka 四面楚歌). At the sound of a song from his home country, Xiang Yu becomes convinced that his people have switched allegiances to the Han; he surrenders and joins Yu Ji in death. In his production plan, Shirai decided to cast the boys in the invisible but crucial role of Han soldiers, which according to Ueda worked perfectly well from a dramatic standpoint but encountered much opposition from Takarazuka aficionados who resisted the addition of male harmonies.66 Even worse, despite playing a key role, the boys’ names were omitted from the programme.67 They were thus doubly invisible, made to bear a bitter supporting role with no public recognition, something acerbically pointed out in a column published in the Sunday Mainichi サンデー毎日 on 19 July 1953:

  • 68 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 111. In fact, Tsuji reports that this “invisibility” occurred on (...)

While the female students who joined [the Takarazuka Music School] with them had all made their Daigekijō debut and were steadily ascending to stardom, the boys were scornfully mocked as they pursued their training without ever seeing the light of day, and one by one, left for other troupes. The vanishing male student: this is truly the kingdom of women.68

同時に入学した女生徒がみんな大劇場で初舞台をふみ、ぐんぐんスターへの道を進んでいるとき、陽の目をみない稽古に「なんやねん、男のくせして」と冷笑され、転向組が相次いで出る有様となった。「消えてゆく男生徒」さすが女人王国である。

For the emergence of a new popular art

  • 69 Note that the company’s management and artistic direction were carried out exclusively by men, lea (...)

44Mirroring the suggestion made by Hori (see earlier in this article), Kobayashi decided to bypass the public’s reticence by incorporating males into the Revue as part of a new, “subsidiary” troupe that ideally would allow the company to explore new theatrical territory. The result was Takarazuka Shingeiza, or “Takarazuka New Art Theatre.” This situation was not without echoes of the circumstances leading to the creation of Kokuminza. This continual shifting of males from a central to a marginal role confirms just how difficult it was to permanently incorporate men into what was seen by the public as a sanctuary for women and vigorously defended as such by the artists themselves.69

  • 70 Remember that the Takarazuka troupe was originally intended as an attraction designed to boost pro (...)
  • 71 Hikita Ichirō, “Shingeiza dōjō no yuku michi” 新芸座道場の行く道 [The Path Walked by Shingeiza Dōjō], Kagek (...)

45This new theatrical group was officially created in the autumn of 1950 and given the name Takarazuka Shingeiza Dōjō 宝塚新芸座道場. The word dōjō, whose reference to the martial arts should be understood as referring to a “place for training for the challenges of the stage,” was removed from the troupe’s name in early 1952. Yet this connotation of an apprenticeship or even amateurism had been intentional, since the contrast between Shingeiza’s smaller-scale, less polished productions and Takarazuka’s Daigekijō shows made the latter appear even grander. The Shingeiza productions, which initially could be watched free of charge, were purposely scheduled for late morning, just before Takarazuka shows. Indeed, Kobayashi feared that the departure of the company’s big names (Koshiji Fubuki, Otowa Nobuko, Awashima Chikage and Kuji Asami) for film and singing careers might severely test the female troupes’ popularity. What was needed was a means of “ensnaring” the public by offering a varied range of shows at the same venue.70 The vast Takarazuka entertainment complex, located on the banks of the Muko River, offered the perfect place for implementing this “one‑set” (integrated service) system. While Takarazuka’s female troupes occupied the “Grand Theater” (Daigekijō, which in 1950 had a capacity of approximately 3,000 seats) all year round, the “Medium Theater” (Chūgekijō 中劇場, 1,300 seats) was converted into a cinema. Renamed the “Takarazuka Cinema Theater” (Takarazuka Eiga Gekijō 宝塚映画劇場), it mainly screened films produced by the company’s own studios, Takarazuka Eiga 宝塚映画. Finally, the “Little Theater” (Shōgekijō 小劇場, 400 seats) was to house Shingeiza activities, a strategic decision based on the lessons learned from the failure of Kokuminza: by housing a large troupe in a theatre it was unable to fill, Kobayashi and Shikō had clearly been overambitious and perhaps undermined Kokuminza’s chances of success right from the outset. Shingeiza was thus to start out more modestly with a small troupe, recreating the atmosphere of a modern yose 寄席71, the intimate little show houses used since the Edo period for oral and storytelling arts such as rakugo 落語, kōdan 講談, and later on, manzai 漫才.

  • 72 To save money, however, the troupe re-used tailcoats and accessories borrowed from the Revue, lend (...)

46The first Shingeiza performances, in November 1950, provided seven members of the boys’ section (Jōkin, Mugishima, Suzuki, Enami, Taji, Yamaguchi and Yokoyama) with the opportunity to make their first real stage debut, the revue-style scenes finally allowing them to showcase the fruits of their intensive dance training. The female roles were entrusted to Takarasiennes, some of whom were veteran performers like Asaji Shinobu 浅茅しのぶ (1925‑), whose career was entering its thirteenth year and who occasionally starred in films produced by Takarazuka Eiga. Despite its cast of experienced artists, Shingeiza sought to develop a performance style that was fundamentally different to Takarazuka.72 Its programmes resolutely leaned towards variety and diversity, incorporating a wide range of elements. The introduction in 1951 of young manzai duos performing comic sketches between scenes (Yumeji Itoshi and Kimi Koishi 夢路いとし・喜味こいし, Akita A‑Suke and B‑Suke 秋田Aす け・Bすけ) saw Shingeiza develop a theatrical style that was midway between music hall and yose.

  • 73 Fukushima Wataru 福島亘 (Katsu’ura Yutaka 勝浦豊), Honme Masaaki 本目雅昭 (Honme Mitsugu 本目貢), Nagano Yoshin (...)
  • 74 The account given by Fukushima Wataru supports the second hypothesis. He recalls that his contract (...)

47Following a five-year break, Takarazuka’s fourth—and last—male recruitment drive was held in 1952, yielding a crop of twelve new students.73 This higher-than-usual intake can be interpreted in two ways: it may partially have been intended to compensate for the loss of male Takarazuka performers, since several had already left in search of more concrete artistic opportunities (the others had found a way to overcome the dearth of on‑stage roles in the Shingeiza troupe); or perhaps this recruitment was intended essentially to boost Shingeiza’s numbers rather than Takarazuka’s. In fact, the boys recruited in January 1952 made their stage debut with the Shingeiza troupe as early as the following month.74 The sheer quantity of notes written about this troupe by Kobayashi in the early 1950s, in the pages of Kageki, the monthly magazine dedicated to Takarazuka, leaves no doubt as to the attention this group received. His desire to expand the new troupe was also visible in the use of various media, a tactic that had already proved successful with Takarazuka. In February 1952, Shingeiza obtained its own weekly radio show on the airwaves of Shin Nippon Hōsō 新日本放送 (now MBS). Entitled Takarazuka Shingeiza Parade 宝塚新芸座パラード, it gave artists the chance to sing extracts from the repertoire performed on stage and promote the troupe’s activities. The Shingeiza troupe gradually began to extend its activities beyond the Kansai region, performing in Tokyo and touring Kyushu with its dedicated orchestra of a dozen members. Only after it had proven its ability to fill entire venues was its operational base moved to the former Chūgekijō (then the Takarazuka Cinema Theater) in 1953, the troupe’s management taking great care not to repeat the mistakes made with Kokuminza. This venue was entirely given over to Shingeiza activities and renamed the Takarazuka Shingei Gekijō 宝塚新芸劇場, remaining, until its closure in 1972, the “stamping ground” of the boys catapulted into this troupe (see figure 2). By this point, there were only fifteen members still under contract with Takarazuka.

Figure 2: Some of the male recruits in 1953

Figure 2: Some of the male recruits in 1953

From left to right: Inoue Tōru, Enami Takayoshi, Suzuki Shigeo, Taji Keiji, Fukushima Wataru, Yamaguchi Akihiko, Jōkin Fumio, Mugishima Haruo

© Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center

  • 75 This 2,500‑seat theater staged large-scale revues, known as “Kitano Shows,” as well as performance (...)
  • 76 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 182.

48In contrast to the homages paid to Takarasiennes when they retire from the company, Takarazuka’s male section was abruptly disbanded in March 1954 without any kind of farewell tribute (see figure 3). It no longer had any reason to exist now that a home for the boys’ activities had been found with Shingeiza: despite Kobayashi’s dreams and grand ideals, both the public and the actresses remained invariably attached to an all‑female Takarazuka, no matter how artistically “weak” it could appear in the eyes of its founder and mastermind. Some of the male recruits were transferred to the Shingeiza troupe as permanent members. Those who had specialised in dance decided to join the group of dancers at the Kitano Theater in Osaka (also known as the Kitano Gekijō Dancing Team 北野劇場ダンシングチーム).75 The Shingeiza troupe later gave several performances at the Kitano Theater, providing the opportunity for an emotional reunion between former members of the male section. In 1956 the group’s repertoire was expanded with special performances of “Shingeiza kabuki,” for which a certain number of Kabuki actors temporarily joined the troupe’s permanent members: Arashi San’emon XI (十一代目嵐三右衛門; 1906‑1980), Kataoka Nizaemon XIII (十三代目片岡仁左衛門; 1903‑1994) and Ichikawa Enjūrō III (三代目市川猿十郎; 1915‑1991), also known as Iwai Kisaburō II (二代目岩井貴三郎). This initiative enabled a highly enriching artistic exchange between actors from the worlds of Takarazuka and Kabuki. It was also unquestionably a return to the origins of Kobayashi’s initial idea to develop a new Kabuki using Western music. Ueda Shinji, who directed the troupe in the 1960s, recalls a family atmosphere despite the troupe being composed of highly professional artists.76 After Ichizō’s death in 1957, his third‑born son Kobayashi Yonezō 小林米三 (1909‑1969) worked to protect the interests of Takarazuka and Shingeiza. The latter moved towards performing “pure,” non‑musical theatre, presenting a resolutely different image to its “revue years.” When it lost its dedicated venue in 1972, rebuilt as Bow Hall to house more intimate Takarazuka performances, Shingeiza changed its vocation to become a production company for those of its artists continuing a career in theatre, film and television. It began to seriously run out of steam in the 1980s and definitively ceased its activities in March 1988.

Figure 3. 26 March 1954, last day of the male section

Figure 3. 26 March 1954, last day of the male section

On the spur of the moment, the members decided to pose for a photographer not far from the Daigekijō before going their separate ways. From left to right, front row: Enami Takayoshi, Jōkin Fumio, Suzuki Shigeo, and Yasunaga Jun’ichi. Middle row: Takada Jitsuo and Inoue Tōru. Back row: Yamaguchi Akihiko, Fukushima Wataru, Nagano Yoshinari, Mugishima Haruo, and Taji Keiji

© Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center

49For the Revue’s founder, by then in his eighties, the end of the boys’ adventure in 1954 was the final nail in the coffin of his plan to incorporate males. It was time to accept that the Revue could only function as an all‑female outfit and that the limits associated with the troupe’s composition ultimately had the same suggestive potential that had made the Kabuki onnagata a success.

Attempts were occasionally made to incorporate women into Kabuki, on account of the unnaturalness of onnagata, but ultimately it is the onnagata that make Kabuki what it is. In the same way, adding boys to Takarazuka seems even less indispensable. In the eyes of women, the otokoyaku are much more than men; and it is women who know male beauty best. The male roles adapted and performed by women are seen from a female point of view as much more seductive than the real thing. And the Takarazuka otokoyaku particularly shine in this practice.

  • 77 Kobayashi Ichizō, Takarazuka manpitsu, in Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū, 2: 467‑468.

The onnagata from Kabuki also represent an idealised woman in the eyes of men. In their character, style and conduct they are in every way the archetype of the ideal woman. In this respect, the onnagata are more sensual than real women; they are more of a woman than a woman. Just as Kabuki prospered through the sensuality of the onnagata, which would be impossible for a real woman to recreate, the Takarazuka otokoyaku are more charming than real men. For this reason, I think that Takarazuka will forever remain as it is.77

歌舞伎の女形は不自然だから、女を入れなければいかんというて、ときどき実行するけれども、結局、あれは女形あっての歌舞伎なのだ。同じように宝塚の歌劇も、男を入れてやる必要はさらにない。なぜなれば、女から見た男役というものは男以上のものである。いわゆる男 性美を一番よく知っている者は女である。その女が工夫して演ずる男役は、女から見たら実物以上の惚れ惚れある男性が演ぜられているわけだ。そこが宝塚の男役の非常に輝くところである。

歌舞伎の女形も、男の見る一番いい女である。性格なり、スタイルなり、行動なり、すべてにおいて一番いい女の典型なのである。だから歌舞伎の女形はほんとうの女以上に色気があり、それこそ女以上の女なんだ。そういう一つの、女ではできない女形の色気で歌舞伎が成り立っていると同じように、宝塚歌劇の男役も男以上の魅力を持った男性なのである。だからこれは永久に、このままの姿で行くものではないかと思う。

50Recognising that the attraction of onnagata and otokoyaku lay in a process of sublimation rather than mimesis, Kobayashi’s final instruction for the development of the troupe was that the emphasis on otokoyaku, which had begun gradually in the 1930s, should become a constant fixture, in the writing of the plays, their staging, and the publicity surrounding Takarazuka. This is still the state of affairs today. A letter written to Yonezō by a female fan in the early 1960s asked for confirmation, via a reply in Kageki, that boys would never again be incorporated into the Revue. More than the success of the otokoyaku, who symbolise an art in which Takarazuka has established a hegemonic position, it was “popular” hostility (more specifically, from “seasoned” fans, whose deep and heart-felt attachment fundamentally changes the reception process) that progressively stifled the possibility of creating a mixed troupe.

Conclusion: the memory of the Takarazuka boys

51The disbanding of Takarazuka’s male section signalled the end of an eight-year adventure during which the young recruits received the same training in singing, dancing and acting as their female counterparts, in the hope of one day becoming stars. Yet not only did they never appear openly on the Daigekijō stage, their very existence was gradually forgotten as the female stars garnered all the public’s attention.

52In December 1998, a ceremony was organised for former Takarazuka recruits to mark the reconstruction of the music school where students received their artistic training before joining the troupe. Although this was also the place where the boys had been trained, none of them were contacted: Inoue Tōru (from the March 1946 intake) learned in a newspaper that the school where he had studied as a young man was to be demolished. He travelled to Takarazuka to immortalise the place by taking photographs, and attempted to join the farewell ceremony.

  • 78 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 154.

At first they tried to stop me entering, but when I explained that I was a former graduate [of the Takarazuka troupe], they finally let me in. Even journalists weren’t allowed inside; I was the only man. In the Japanese dance studio I could picture myself as if it were yesterday, dancing awkwardly as a young soldier back from the front. Having heard that a strange former student had come, the school’s current female recruits surrounded me, eyeing me with curiosity as if I were a prehistoric man.78

いったんは止められたんやけど、『僕も(歌劇団の)卒業生や』というたら、中にいれてくれました。新聞記者も中には入れなくて男は僕ひとり。日舞教室では兵隊帰りの自分の不器用な踊りの姿が昨日のように目に浮かんできました。『珍しい卒業生が来た』ということで、在校生たちが私を囲んで、まるで原始人が来たみたいに好奇心いっぱいの目で見られましたわ。

  • 79 Yoshii Takaaki commented with resignation that “It can’t be helped. Men shouldn’t have entered a d (...)

53Adamic men: it seemed unbelievable to the young recruits that such an initiative had ever existed, so strongly is the Revue associated in the public mind with its all‑female line-up. Inoue Tōru’s experience is not an isolated example. The private Takarazuka Friends’ Association (Hōyūkai 宝友会), which occasionally organises ceremonies to commemorate deceased former members of Takarazuka or its orchestra, never makes any mention of the male recruits (according to their widows). Similarly, while some 1,500 former Takarasiennes were invited to the events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Revue in April 2014, not a single member of the male section was asked to attend. Their names were also absent from the publications printed for the occasion.79 The existence of these male performers has quite simply been erased from Takarazuka’s “official” history.

  • 80 The play was a critical and popular success. It won the 10th Senda Korenari Award (Senda Korenari‑ (...)
  • 81 Although the boys’ roles have been played by different actors, the character of Kimihara Yoshie co (...)

54Nevertheless, a number of recent initiatives have helped restore the memory of this short-lived experiment. One is the book by Tsuji Norihiko, the most pertinent excerpts from which appear in this article; another, more curious example is a play inspired by Tsuji’s book, Takarazuka Boys 宝塚ボーイズ, originally staged in 2007 as a Tōhō production with a small cast of nine artists.80 Written by Nakajima Atsuhiko 中島淳彦 (1961‑) and directed by Suzuki Yūmi 鈴木裕美 (1961‑), this high‑quality play provides a fictionalised account of the dreams and setbacks encountered by the second male section (1945‑1954), supported in its search for theatrical perfection by one woman, Kimihara Yoshie, who looks after the boys’ dormitory.81 Since this was intended to be a straight play and not a fully‑fledged musical, the use of music and dance is particularly calculated. Only the last twenty minutes of this two-hour-and-forty-minute show take the form of an imaginary revue featuring classic pre‑war Takarazuka melodies, giving a fictionalised depiction of what a real show by the male section might have resembled. Finally, it is worth noting that the play was presented with the help of Takarazuka’s management, and that a few survivors of the male section were even invited to watch a performance (see figure 4). The impact of Tsuji Norihiko’s work in bringing about this belated visibility cannot be overstated.

Figure  4: Yoshii Takaaki, Fukushima Wataru, Sakai Shōichi And Suzuki Shigeo

Figure  4: Yoshii Takaaki, Fukushima Wataru, Sakai Shōichi And Suzuki Shigeo

Yoshii Takaaki, Fukushima Wataru, Sakai Shōichi and Suzuki Shigeo in front of the Creation Theater (Tokyo) after a performance of Takarazuka Boys, August 2008

55These days the troupe never misses an occasion to celebrate and perpetuate the nostalgic memory of its history by holding various jubilees, such as Revue Day (rebyū kinenbi レビュー記念日, held every 1 September to commemorate the first performance of Mon Paris in 1927), as well as the avalanche of special events, publicity and media partnerships that accompanied the company’s 100th anniversary. The company’s aim is nonetheless to retain only its most glorious episodes. This strategy is most likely intended to confer on the Revue a level of prestige close to that of Kabuki, as the company openly manoeuvres to achieve recognition for the now 100-year-old Takarazuka as a “traditional” performing art. Posing the troupe’s legitimacy as being achieved through the length of its history is nonetheless problematic for two reasons. Firstly, it raises the issue of the criteria used to determine what constitutes a theatrical form. Can Takarazuka legitimately be considered a theatrical genre? Strictly speaking, it was founded by Kobayashi Ichizō as a means of developing the kageki form, whether it was qualified as all‑female (shōjo kageki) or Japanese (nihon kageki). Furthermore, Takarazuka was never the sole and empirical representative of the now moribund “girls’ opera” movement. While it may have been the pioneer, it eventually broke with “shōjo” culture in order to enter into direct competition with the rest of the modern theatre world, in particular in the realm of musicals. More than a theatrical genre, the Takarazuka Revue is first and foremost a troupe, despite the many special rules and rich “folklore” that guarantee its unique identity and cultural specificity.

  • 82 With the exception of a handful of half-Japanese Takarasiennes.
  • 83 At the risk of offending sensibilities through an exotic—not to mention heavy‑handed and incoheren (...)

56Secondly, there is the important issue of how a tradition—in this case a theatrical one—can be created via the more or less deceptive manipulation of discourses and history. In this regard, the troupe provides a rich case study, which has been explored in these pages from just one of the many possible angles. Deliberately reinterpreting theatre history in order to adopt the reassuring—yet entirely fabricated—label of “traditional” art is clearly part of a carefully devised strategy by Takarazuka’s current management, which hopes to maintain the troupe’s brand image both in Japan and overseas, as well as to accrue enough prestige to ensure the troupe’s long-term future and the viability of any future initiatives. In actual fact, despite Hankyū nurturing a belief that Takarazuka is famous around the world, a claim that is essentially intended to impress the Japanese public, the Revue is largely unknown on the international scene outside a circle of specialists in Japanese theatre and a small number of connoisseurs. Structural factors are no doubt responsible for this situation: the fact that Takarazuka is owned by a private company which exclusively—and jealously—controls its own image means that Japan’s cultural organisations are theoretically not responsible for promoting it overseas, nor for providing assistance in organising events. In recent years, the sending of artistic teams to Europe or the United States in order to prepare Japanese adaptations of foreign works has taken place in utmost secret. Similarly, the inviting of foreign artists to collaborate with Takarazuka appears to follow two main principles: firstly, guests must be particularly famous in their field in order to reflect their prestige on the Revue—or, in marketing terms, to consolidate and boost the troupe’s brand image; secondly, this collaboration must be for a limited time only. Thus, the majority of foreign guest authors, composers, costume designers and choreographers are “tolerated” within the Takarazuka system for a single production. To this author’s knowledge, none of the permanent members of the technical crew, management or artistic team are of foreign origin:82 despite the management’s purported desire to make the company more international, as expressed regularly in the Japanese press over the past few years, the Revue’s productions continue to be “made by Japanese, for Japanese audiences.”83

  • 84 Louis Jouvet, Témoignages sur le théâtre [Theatre Testimonials] (Paris: Flammarion, 1952), 164.
  • 85 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge Universit (...)

57Ultimately, the theoretical framework used by the company to establish, circulate and regulate its own tradition—a word used abundantly by Takarazuka for “the pleasant nostalgia it evokes and the prestigious future it guarantees”84—must be treated with the utmost scepticism. In his authoritative work The Invention of Tradition, Eric Hobsbawm identifies invariance85 as the most salient characteristic of “tradition,” for example in the case of fixed cultural practices continually passed down from generation to generation. Despite the fact that Takarazuka’s plethoric variety of shows share certain main themes, the issue of invariance remains complex in a structure whose repertoire, influences and techniques are constantly evolving. Much more than a commercial imperative, meeting the challenges of the era appears to be an ideological credo for Takarazuka, one that underpinned its creation. Offering a modern theatre fully capable of adapting and transforming meant a promise to never become “fixed” or “fossilised,” something for which Kobayashi vehemently reproached what are now considered to be wholly “traditional” arts. The Takarazuka Revue’s claimed continuity between its past and its present is thus widely fictitious, as evidenced by the silence surrounding the episodes that deviated from its supposedly “invariant” principles, in this case the compromising of the troupe’s all‑female character by the presence of males.

58Nevertheless, between mystification and reality, discursive manipulation and historical authenticity, it would be difficult to claim that the attempt to create a mixed troupe at Takarazuka was entirely in vain, or even that it has no relevance to audiences today. It notably helped to construct the Revue’s all-female identity, a feature that was intended by its creators to be temporary but was rapidly taken for granted by the public and is now promoted by its management as an unshakeable truth. While Kobayashi’s successive attempts to innovate may have clashed with the audience’s desires, they can be seen as tracing an entire chapter in theatrical reception history, whereby the audience’s ardent embrace or rejection of the propositions made on stage gradually forged the “tradition” of a troupe.

  • 86 In August 1932, Kobayashi Ichizō founded the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater Corporation (Kabushiki‑gaish (...)

59Although the use of male actors shifted to the Tōhō theatre troupe or Shingeiza, these groups played no lesser role than Takarazuka in the construction of Kobayashi’s national popular theatre.86 Kobayashi often wrote of his hopes of one day achieving recognition for what he called the “Takara‑za” たから座, a cluster or guild of artists overseen by the same parent company, Hankyū, forming a network of bridges between the worlds of film (the Takarazuka and Tōhō film companies) and theatre (with the Takarazuka Revue, Shingeiza and Tōhō Theatrical Company): such a system would enable actors and actresses to work in all areas of what was envisaged until the end as a popular performing art. In 1956, the year before he died and at the age of eighty‑four, Kobayashi launched what was to be his last project by opening two identical venues in Osaka (Umeda) and Tokyo (Shinjuku), the Koma Theaters コマ劇場, with the stated aim of creating a place where his “national popular theatre” could at last be developed. This statement curiously echoes the views he expressed on the inauguration of the Takarazuka Grand Theater in 1924 and its younger sibling, the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater, in 1934. Ultimately, Kobayashi’s many attempts, statements, dreams and contradictions suggest a permanently unfulfilled search for a theatrical ideal.

  • 87 In its financial statement for the 2013 fiscal year, Hankyū declared revenues of 28,235 million ye (...)

60The notion of “national popular theatre” almost seems to be a bitter failure in twenty‑first century Takarazuka. Its main challenge now is to rid itself of its reputation as a theatre for “the devout” and once again attract a wide audience. Only then will it be able to claim the title of “popular theatre,” which perhaps represents its true tradition, beyond the “gendered” composition of its troupe or the content of its shows. Nevertheless, its history has illustrated more than once the omnipotence of the public, and in particular its fans. In trying to win over popular audiences again, the Revue cannot allow itself to betray the demands of its increasingly devoted fans, whose presence remains indispensable to the company’s financial health.87 The influence of these fans brings to mind the peragoro ペラゴロ associated with Asakusa Opera and the renjū 連中 of Kabuki, the former referring to groups of fervent admirers devoted to a particular female singer, and the latter to a particular male actor. Echoing the Takarazuka practice of promoting and spotlighting particular artists—irrespective of their talent or length of experience within the Revue—, theatre directors (za-gashira 座頭) in the late nineteenth century judged the popularity of an actor by the number of fans he had and took this into account when putting together a cast. Ironically, this early star system was criticised by Kobayashi for interfering with theatre reception at a wider level. It was nonetheless this very system that prevented him from creating the mixed-sex national popular theatre of his dreams and which, after his death, gradually led the Revue to deviate from its founder’s original intentions. With its promise of financial gain, the star system subsequently came to drive the company’s strategy. In the most diverse and dissimilar of theatrical manifestations, theatre history truly reveals many hidden similarities.

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Bibliography

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Héritier, Françoise. Masculin/Féminin (Male/Female). Vol. 1: La Pensée de la différence (The Thought Process of Difference). Paris: Odile Jacob, 1996. Vol. 2: Dissoudre la hiérarchie (Dissolving the Hierarchy).

Hobsbawm, Eric and Ranger Terence (eds). The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Jouvet, Louis. Témoignages sur le theatre (Theatre Testimonials). Paris: Flammarion, 1952.

Kamura Kikuo 香村菊雄. Itoshi no Takarazuka e 愛しの宝塚へ (To My Beloved Takarazuka). Kobe: Kōbe Shinbun Shuppan Center 神戸新聞出版センター, 1984.

Kawasaki Kenko 川崎賢子. Takarazuka to iu yūtopia 宝塚というユートピア (A Utopia Named Takarazuka). Tokyo, Iwanami Shinsho 岩波新書, 2005.

Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三. Itsuō jijoden 逸翁自叙伝 (Autobiography of an Old Man). Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Center 日本図書センター, 1953 (1997).

Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三. Omoitsuki おもひつ記 (Thoughts). Tokyo: Hankyū Communications 阪急コミュニケーションズ, 2008. Compilation of columns published in Kageki from 1946 to 1957.

Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三. Shibai zange 芝居ざんげ (Theatrical Confessions), 1942. In Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū 小林一三全集 (The Collected Works of Kobayashi Ichizō), 7 vols., 2: 205‑439. Tokyo: Daiyamondo-sha ダイヤモンド社, 1961.

Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三. Takarazuka manpitsu 宝塚漫筆 (Notes on Takarazuka), 1955. In Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū 小林一三全集 (The Collected Works of Kobayashi Ichizō), 7 vols., 2: 441‑575. Tokyo: Daiyamondo‑sha ダイヤモンド社, 1961.

Kunisaki Aya 國﨑彩. “Taishōki no Takarazuka shōjo kagekidan no buyō katsudō ni tsuite no kōsatsu” 大正期の寶塚少女歌劇團の舞踊活動についての考察 (Reflections on the Taishō-Period Dance Activities of the Takarazuka Troupe). In Waseda daigaku engeki kenkyū center kiyō 早稲田大学演劇研究センター紀要 (Annals of the Waseda University Institute for Theatre Research), vol. 8 (2007): 311‑329.

Kurabayashi Yasushi 倉林靖. “Opera no yume, Takarazuka no yume” オペラの夢、宝塚の夢 (The Opera Dream, the Takarazuka Dream). In Takarazuka no yūwaku 宝塚の誘惑 (The Takarazuka Temptation), edited by Kawasaki Kenko 川崎賢子, 213‑218. Tokyo: Seishisha 青弓社, 1991.

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Sakaguchi Ango 坂口安吾. “Ango no shin Nihon chiri  Takarazuka joshi senryōgun, Hanshin no maki” 安吾の新日本地理–宝塚女子占領軍–阪神の巻 (Sakaguchi Ango’s New Geography of Japan—the Hanshin volume: Takarazuka’s female occupation army), 1951. In Sakaguchi Ango Zenshū 坂口安吾全集 (The Collected Works of Sakaguchi Ango), 18 vols., vol. 11. Tokyo: Chikuma Shōbō 筑摩書房, 1998. Available online: www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/001095/files/45908_37864.html (accessed March 2017).

Takagi Shirō 高木史郎. “Hane ōgi o motta chōchōtachi” 羽根扇を持った蝶々たち (Butterflies with Feathered Fans). In Oh Takarazuka rokujūnen – ‘Domburako’ kara ‘Berubara’ madeおお宝塚60年-「ドンブラコ」から「ベルばら」まで (Sixtieth Anniversary of the Takarazuka Revue: From Donburako to the Rose of Versailles), 74‑79. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha 朝日新聞社, 1976.

Takarazuka Kagekidan 宝塚歌劇団 (ed.). Takarazuka kageki gojūnen-shi 宝 塚歌劇50年史 (The Fifty‑Year History of the Takarazuka Revue), 2 vols. Takarazuka: Takarazuka Kagekidan, 1964.

Tōhō Engekibu 東宝演劇部 (ed.). Teigeki Wonderland – Teikoku gekijō kaijō hyakushūnen kinen dokuhon 帝劇ワンダーランド―帝国劇場開場100周年記念読本 (Teigeki Wonderland: Commemorative Book for the 100th Anniversary of the Imperial Theater]). Tokyo: Pia ぴあ, 2011.

Tsubouchi Shikō 坪内士行. Koshikata kyūjūnen 越し方九十年 (How I Have Lived these 90 Years). Tokyo: Seiabō 青蛙房, 1977.

Tsuganesawa Toshihiro 津金澤聡廣. Takarazuka senryaku  Kobayashi Ichizō no seikatsu bunkaron 宝塚戦略―小林一三の生活文化論 (The Takarazuka Strategy: Kobayashi Ichizō’s theories on culture and daily life). Tokyo: Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho 講談社現代新書, 1991.

Tsuji Norihiko 辻則彦. Otokotachi no Takarazuka – yume o otta kenkyūsei no hanseiki 男たちの宝塚―夢を追った研究生の半世紀 (Boys’ Takarazuka: Half a century of chasing their dreams). Kobe: Kōbe Shinbun Sōgō Shuppan Center 神戸新聞総合出版センター, 2004.

Vlastos, Stephen (ed.). Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Watanabe Hiroshi 渡辺裕. Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō to nihon kindai 宝塚歌劇の変容と日本近代 (Japanese Modernity and the Changes in Takarazuka Theatre). Tokyo: Shinshokan 新書館, 1999.

Video documents (graciously loaned by Tsuji Norihiko)

Takarazuka Boys タカラヅカボーイズ, theatrical play. Tokyo: Tōhō Geinō 東宝芸能, THG107003, 2010, 160 minutes.

Takarazuka danshibu onna no sono no hitotsu no monogatari タカラヅカ男子部―「女の園」のもうひとつの物語 (The Takarazuka Male Section: Another Story from the “Garden of Women”). Osaka: TV Osaka テレビ大阪, first broadcast on 13 August 2005, 47 minutes.

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Notes

1 The term Hanshin 阪神, which refers to a thirty-kilometre stretch of the Kansai region between Osaka and Kobe, is a contraction of the characters used to write these two toponyms (大阪–神戸). Although a straight line from Osaka to Kobe would only pass directly through Amagasaki 尼崎, Ashiya 芦屋 and Nishinomiya 西宮, the Hanshin area also includes the municipalities of Takarazuka 宝塚, Kawanishi 川西, Sanda 三田 and Inagawa 猪名川to the north. The Hanshin Electric Railway Company, wholly owned by Hankyū since 2006, takes its name from this toponym.

2 Tsuganesawa Toshihiro 津金沢聡広, Takarazuka senryaku – Kobayashi Ichizō no seikatsu bunkaron 宝塚戦略―小林一三の生活文化論 [The Takarazuka Strategy: Kobayashi Ichizō’s theories on culture and daily life] (Tokyo: Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho 講談社現代新書, 1991).

3 Translator’s note: in accordance with the author’s wishes, a distinction is made throughout the present article between “theatre” as an art form and “theater” as a physical venue.

4 Although it is not the oldest musical theatre company in Japan, the Takarazuka Revue is nonetheless the “troupe” (gekidan 劇団) with the longest uninterrupted history still in activity. The use of the Western-derived term gekidan—and its operatic counterpart kagekidan 歌劇団—to refer to a theatre troupe emerged gradually during the late Meiji period (1868‑1912) with the first productions of Western theatre. Previously, groups of performers had been organised into za 座 according to the system of “guilds” specialising in a particular trade or artistic activity.

5 Harnessing the synergy between the different business sectors of the Hankyū group, audiences would ideally travel to the venue on one of the company’s railway lines, stopping en route to shop at the Hankyū stores located in the station terminuses: this is the “one-set” (ワンセット) or “integrated service” principle, which maximises profits for the entire company by having one branch stimulate business for all the others.

6 Kyūgeki 旧劇 is a generic term for all the theatrical forms that appeared before the Meiji Restoration (1868), as opposed to forms established in the late 19th and early 20th century such as shinpa 新派 (“new style,” a modern school of theatre derived from Kabuki which made abundant use of melodrama and was characterised by the presence of actresses after a ban of almost 250 years) and shingeki 新劇 (“new theatre,” a more realistic performance style inspired by Western theatre, drawing on a wide literary repertoire encompassing authors such as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Gorky). The term “old theatre” thus generally refers to Noh and Kabuki.

7 Kobayashi Ichizō, “Hozon shiubekarazaru kabukigeki” 保存し得べからざる歌舞伎劇 [“The Kabuki theatre that should not be conserved”], Kageki 歌劇 (July 1924): 4. Should we see this idea as reflecting the influence of the Meiji-period attempts to radically reform theatre and the debates that abounded at that time on the future of the performing arts? For more information on this subject, see Catherine Hennion, La Naissance du théâtre moderne à Tokyo (1842‑1924): du kabuki de la fin d’Edo au petit théâtre de Tsukiji [The Birth of Modern Theatre in Tokyo: From late‑Edo-period Kabuki to Tsukiji Little Theatre] (Paris: L’Entretemps, 2009).

8 With its Viennese architecture and opulent interior, the Imperial Theater (Teikoku Gekijō 帝国劇場) rapidly established itself as Tokyo’s premier Western‑style performance venue (opera, dance and theatre) before being taken over by Tōhō (owned by Kobayashi Ichizō) in 1940. It subsequently became a Mecca for musicals in the 1960s. For a complete overview of the Imperial Theater’s history, see Tōhō Engekibu 東宝演劇部, Teigeki Wonderland – Teikoku gekijō kaijō hyakushūnen kinen dokuhon 帝劇ワンダーランド―帝国劇場開場100周年記念読本 [Teigeki Wonderland: Commemorative Book for the 100th Anniversary of the Imperial Theater] (Tokyo: Pia ぴあ, 2011).

9 During the first five years of staging operas, “adaptations” consisted in most cases in removing full sections of the original work. Although entire librettos were performed, programmes consisting of a single act were also often staged, as was the case for Faust (1859) by Charles Gounod (1818‑1893), the first opera performed in Japan by an amateur foreign troupe (Yokohama, November 1894). The reasons for this compromise were twofold: to assist a Japanese public unaccustomed to the pace of operas and operettas, and to overcome the technical limitations of the performers, who had only recently been trained in what was a particularly demanding style of singing. Kurabayashi Yasushi 倉林靖, “Opera no yume, Takarazuka no yume” オペラの夢、宝塚の夢 [The Opera Dream, the Takarazuka Dream], in Takarazuka no Yūwaku 宝塚の誘惑 [The Takarazuka Temptation], ed. Kawasaki Kenko 川崎賢子 (Tokyo: Seishisha 青弓社, 1991), 217.

10 Watanabe Hiroshi 渡辺裕, Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō to nihon kindai 宝塚歌劇の変容と日本近代 [Japanese Modernity and the Changes in Takarazuka Theatre] (Tokyo: Shinshokan 新書館, 1999), 23‑26. Watanabe notes, however, that most ordinary people at the time were much more familiar with Kabuki than with Western music and theatre. Kobayashi Ichizō thus based his initiative on a pure supposition.

11 Another of Kobayashi’s motives in choosing to create a troupe of young girls was no doubt to retain the wealthy male clientele that formed the majority of hot spring visitors. Although he clearly aimed to provide family entertainment, he could not realistically allow himself to lose the support of his patrons.

12 Kobayashi Ichizō, Itsuō jijoden 逸翁自叙伝 [Autobiography of an Old Man], 1953, in Otokotachi no Takarazuka  yume o otta kenkyūsei no hanseiki男たちの宝塚―夢を追った研究生の半世紀 [Boys’ Takarazuka: Half a century of chasing their dreams], ed. Tsuji Norihiko (Kobe: Kōbe Shinbun Sōgō Shuppan Center 神戸新聞総合出版センター, 2004), 27.

13 Kunisaki Aya 國﨑彩, “Taishōki no Takarazuka shōjo kagekidan no buyō katsudō ni tsuite no kōsatsu” 大正期の寶塚少女歌劇團の舞踊活動についての考察 [Reflections on the Taishō‑Period Dance Activities of the Takarazuka Troupe], in Waseda daigaku engeki kenkyū center kiyō 早稲田大学演劇研究センター紀要 [Annals of the Waseda University Institute for Theatre Research], vol. 8 (2007): 312.

14 The term “young girl” (shōjo 少女), which was abundantly used in social and artistic spheres during the Taishō period, was abandoned by the troupe in 1940. Although there are many theories as to the reason for this change, the 10 May 1946 edition of the Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun carried an article stating that given the intensification of World War II, the frivolous connotations of the word were deemed inappropriate.

15 Or more precisely, as players of Western instruments like the piano or violin. This decision allowed Takarazuka to distance itself from Kabuki and other traditional performing arts, notably the geisha profession, whose repertoire always featured classical Japanese instruments. In fact, Kobayashi had a scene involving a shamisen removed from the troupe’s first performance, deeming it improper due to the artistic heritage from which it hailed.

16 From the 17th to the early 20th century there was a relatively large repertoire of roles performed en travesti. A few of the many possible examples are: Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart, 1786), Sesto and Annio in The Clemency of Titus (Mozart, 1791), Romeo in The Capulets and the Montagues (Bellini, 1830), and Octavian in The Knight of the Rose (Richard Strauss, 1911).

17 Denise P. Gallo, Opera: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 2005), 82. See also Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia Juliana Smith (ed.), En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). Note that the practice of casting women as sexually immature males exists in contemporary Takarazuka, since young boys are always played by musumeyaku (actresses playing female roles) due to their smaller size and higher pitch. In fact, this is the only male role that a musumeyaku can play, adult roles being the exclusive domain of the otokoyaku.

18 Takagi Shirō 高木史郎, “Hane ōgi o motta chōchōtachi” 羽根扇を持った蝶々たち [Butterflies with Feathered Fans], in Oh Takarazuka rokujūnen ‘Donburako’ kara ‘Berubara’ made おお宝塚60年-「ドンブラコ」から「ベルばら」まで [Sixtieth Anniversary of the Takarazuka Revue: From Donburako to the Rose of Versailles] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1976), 76.

19 Founded as a replica of the Takarazuka Revue in 1922 by Shirai Matsujirō 白井松次郎 (1877‑1951), head of the Shōchiku theatrical and film production company, this all‑female troupe made its debut at the Ōsaka Shōchikuza as the Shōchiku Gakugekibu (松竹楽劇部, “Shōchiku Musical Theatre Division”). It was renamed Ōsaka Shōchiku Shōjo Kagekidan (大阪松竹少女歌劇団, OSSK, “Osaka Shōchiku Girls’ Revue”) in 1934 when it moved to the Ōsaka Gekijō, a major theater. It subsequently retired the term shōjo in 1943, three years after Takarazuka, which likely confirms WWII’s influence on these troupes' onomastics. It adopted its current name of OSK Nippon Kagekidan (OSK日本歌劇団, “OSK Japanese Revue”) in 1970, since the acronym OSK (for Ōsaka Shōchiku Kagekidan 大阪松竹歌劇団, “Ōsaka Shōchiku Revue”) continued to be familiar to the audiences. Despite serious financial difficulties, scant media coverage and a gradual reduction in the size of its venues, OSK continues to perform, albeit in very small-scale productions. Its uninterrupted existence in the 21st century nevertheless challenges the idea that Takarazuka completely dominates the world of all-female musical theatre.

20 Kurabayashi, “Opera no yume,” 227.

21 Kobayashi Ichizō, 7 June 1946, in his monthly column for the magazine Kageki. Reprinted in Omoitsuki おもひつ記 [Thoughts] (Tokyo:  Hankyū Communications 阪急コミュニケーションズ, 2008), 42.

22 On the universal nature of this association, see Françoise Héritier, Masculin/Féminin [Male/Female] (Paris: Odile Jacob, vol. 1: La Pensée de la différence [The Thought Process of Difference], 1996; vol. 2: Dissoudre la hiérarchie [Dissolving the Hierarchy], 2003).

23 This issue merits greater discussion. In fact, Kobayashi was not very explicit about what he meant when referring to this genre as “Nihon kageki,” which is one of the limits of his theory. Remember that “raw” performances (without any kind of adaptation) of Western operas at the Imperial Theater between 1911 and 1916, or even of Noh experimentally sung in the style of Western opera, made few allowances for the habits and sensibility of Japanese audiences, and most often met with incomprehension at best. On occasions, a performance might even take place amidst the jeers of an audience that had no qualms about openly yawning or leaving the theater mid-show. An account of one of these disastrous performances can be found in Kobayashi Ichizō, Takarazuka manpitsu 宝塚漫筆 [Notes on Takarazuka], June 1955, in Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū 小林一三全集 [The Collected Works of Kobayashi Ichizō], 7 vols. (Tokyo: Daiyamondo-sha ダイヤモンド社, 1961), 2:448.

24 Nephew of the playwright and shingeki pioneer Tsubouchi Shōyō 坪内逍遥 (1859‑1935), Shikō was adopted by his uncle at the age of six and received an artistic education heavily centred on musical composition and Japanese dance. After perfecting his training as an actor in the United States and England from 1909 to 1911, he gave a critically acclaimed performance of Hamlet at the Imperial Theater in 1918. It was at this time that Kobayashi hired him as a drama instructor at his school. To avoid any confusion with his uncle Tsubouchi Shōyō, Shikō will henceforth be referred to by his given name.

25 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 30.

26 Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen 越し方九十年 [How I Have Lived these 90 Years] (Tokyo: Seiabō 青蛙房, 1977), reprinted in Hashimoto Masao 橋本雅夫, Sa se Takarazuka サ・セ・宝塚 [Ça c’est Takarazuka / That’s Takarazuka] (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha 読売新聞社, 1988), 15.

27 List based on Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 29‑30.

28 Kageki, January 1920 issue, cited by Watanabe, Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō, 82.

29 Ibid., 114.

30 This “Grand Theater,” with its unprecedented proportions (3,500 seats, the combined capacity of major venues such as the Imperial Theater and the Kabukiza), was perceived by Kobayashi as indispensable to the creation of a national popular theatre. It was built in Takarazuka in 1924 as a replacement for the Kōkaidō, the company’s previous venue damaged in a fire.

31 In order to increase the number of performances and spectators, Takarazuka’s members were divided in 1921 into two troupes that performed alternately (the “Moon Troupe”, Tsukigumi 月組, and the “Flower Troupe,” Hanagumi 花組). The opening of the Daigekijō saw the creation of a third group named the “Snow Troupe” (Yukigumi 雪組). The current five-troupe system came about through the creation in 1934 of the “Star Troupe” (Hoshigumi 星組), and much later, the “Cosmos Troupe” (Soragumi 宙 組), created in 1998.

32 Chōraku Michiyo 長楽美智代, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza” 坪内士行と宝塚国民座 [Tsubouchi Shikō and the Takarazuka Kokuminza], in Takarazuka beru epokku タカラヅカ・ベルエポック [The Takarazuka Belle Époque], eds. Tsuganesawa Toshihiro 津金沢聡広 and Natori Chisato 名取千里 (Kobe: Kōbe Shinbun Shuppan Center 神戸新聞出版センター, 1997), 113.

33 Kokuminza was the first fixed troupe for Tatsumi, who had previously performed only with touring theatre groups. Nevertheless, a feeling of artistic discomfort caused him to leave the group a year later, when he joined the world of popular theatre thanks to the help of Shikō, who was, since his days at Waseda University, an acquaintance of Sawada Shōjirō 沢田正二郎 (1892‑1929), the founding father of shinkokugeki 新国劇 (“new national theatre,” a complex and composite style blending elements from shingeki, Kabuki and taishū engeki [theatre for the masses]). Putting his fencing skills to good use in “sword fighting dramas” (kengeki 剣劇), Tatsumi became one of Sawada’s last disciples and remained one of the troupe’s cornerstones until it was disbanded in 1987. See Sepp Linhart, “Le Shinkokugeki: un théâtre populaire un demi‑pas en avant” (Shinkokugeki: A popular theatre half a step ahead), in La Modernité à l’horizon, ed. Jean‑Jacques Tschudin and Claude Hamon (Arles: Philippe Picquier, 2004), 151‑166.

34 List based on Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen, 117. Hatsuse Otowako subsequently made a career for herself in the world of shinkokugeki under the stage name Hatsuse Otowa 初瀬乙羽.

35 Takarazuka Kokuminza, no. 1 (May 1926): 1‑4, in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza,” 114‑116.

36 This can be seen as a consequence of Shikō being less concerned with music than Kobayashi; Watanabe, Takarazuka kageki no hen’yō, 84‑86.

37 Text reprinted in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza,” 117.

38 Takarazuka Kokuminza no. 16 (January 1928): 32‑33, in Chōraku Michiyo, “Tsubouchi Shikō to Takarazuka Kokuminza,” 121.

39 The performance was a sell-out, with Tsubouchi Shōyō’s play once again making an enormous impression. At the end of his life, Shikō confessed that he had never been able to forget Kobayashi’s look of satisfaction at seeing such a success (Koshikata kyūjūnen, 128).

40 Students who had left Takarazuka (by choice or by order?) in an attempt to save Kokuminza were given the possibility of re‑joining the ranks of the all-female troupes after Kokuminza was disbanded. Although any decision to leave Takarazuka is final and irrevocable, 1930 and 1931 were notable exceptions, since a number of former Takarasiennes were re‑integrated into the Takarazuka troupes after Kokuminza’s demise. This movement back and forth between Takarazuka and Kokuminza did not go unnoticed by spectators: an inflamed letter criticising the incoherence of this practice appeared in Kageki in December 1930 (p. 83).

41 Tsubouchi Shikō, Koshikata kyūjūnen, 121.

42 Quoting the example of the Edo-period actors paid one thousand ryō per season (千両役者 senryō yakusha), Furukawa demanded the sum of one thousand yen for appearing with Takarazuka Variety. This was a staggering amount of money at a time when a bank clerk earned a monthly salary of around seventy yen; Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 35.

43 On 29 February 1944 the Japanese government issued a “First Emergency Measures Ordinance” (daiichiji kessen hijō sochihō 第一次決戦非常措置法) ordering the closure of nineteen so‑called “high class entertainment venues” (kōkyū kōgyōjō 高級興行場), including both of Takarazuka’s theaters: the Grand Theater and the Tokyo Theater. The Daigekijō was first requisitioned by the Japanese Navy and then by the United States Army following Japan’s defeat. On 5 February 1946, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers authorised the theater to resume its commercial activities.

44 Curiously, little mention is made in Takarazuka’s official chronicles of this final attempt to introduce men. This suggests a desire to uphold the public perception of an exclusively female and ideologically irreproachable revue. See Takarazuka kageki gojūnen-shi 宝塚歌劇50年史 [The Fifty‑Year History of the Takarazuka Revue], 2 vols. (Takarazuka: Takarazuka Kagekidan, 1964). Note that this encyclopaedic compilation was put together after Kobayashi’s death in 1957, at a time when there were no longer any officials within the company who openly championed the “necessity” of a mixed troupe. Nevertheless, brief mention is made of the 1919 attempt to incorporate young men in the chronicles celebrating the 20th‑anniversary of Takarazuka (1934), which emphasise the backlash that rapidly put an end to this endeavour.

45 All of these recruitment campaigns generated a considerable response, attracting between 170 and 200 applications each time; Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 3, 14 and 65. However, it is not clear if the flood of applications was due to Takarazuka’s artistic prestige or the promise of an essentially female work environment.

46 In alphabetical order, this first cohort consisted of Jōkin Fumio (Kanbara Kunio 神原邦夫), Morimoto Yoshimasa 森本義正, Naruo Hirohiko 成尾博彦, Sakurai Haruo 桜井春夫 and Tomiyama Nobuo 富山信夫. The names provided in brackets are the stage names used by each individual during their career with Takarazuka and Shingeiza. This use of stage names was not systematic, since some of the recruits decided to pursue other avenues using their birth names.

47 A passionate defender of the ryōsai kenbo 良妻賢母 ideology (“good wife, wise mother”) that had been encouraged since the Meiji Civil Code of 1898, Kobayashi urged his young female recruits to end their artistic career as soon as possible in order to marry. This resulted in the Takarazuka School of Music and Musical Theatre being nicknamed the “School for Future Brides” (hanayome gakkō 花嫁学校).

48 These two excerpts are taken from Kobayashi Ichizō, Shibai zange 芝居ざんげ [Theatrical Confessions], originally published in 1942, reprinted in Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū, 2: 437.

49 A specialist in ballet, Nishino Kōzō taught Takarazuka’s female recruits and choreographed several shows before leaving Takarazuka in 1949 to found his own ballet company, the Nishino Kōzō Barēdan 西野皓三バレエ団.

50 Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun, 10 May 1946, cited in Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 50.

51 In a note written in December 1947, Kobayashi revealed that he had contacted the “Asahi Chorus” (Asahi kōrasu-dan 朝日コーラス団) with a view to using their musical recordings at Takarazuka, “whose biggest flaw is the lack of male voices”; Kobayashi, Omoitsuki, 92.

52 12 January 1947, in ibid., 55‑56.

53 Hennion, La Naissance du théâtre moderne à Tokyo, 182.

54 The official title of these performances, “The Takarazuka Music School Students’ Christmas Show” (Takarazuka ongaku gakkō kurisumasu gakugeikai 宝塚音楽学校クリスマス学芸会), suggested something of an amateur production. This small‑scale gala was thus not a commercial production intended for the main Takarazuka stage but a sort of bonus offered to the public, and a small consolation for the male section. The five new recruits from the third intake of students (April 1947) were given small walk-on parts: namely, Enami Takayoshi 江並高美 (Enami Takashi 江並隆), Suzuki Shigeo 鈴木繫男 (Nakata Mitsuhiko 中田光彦), Taji Keiji 田地啓二 (Akitsu Hajime 秋津肇), Yamaguchi Akihiko 山口明彦 (Mizuno Haruhiko 水野春彦) and Yokoyama Saburō 横山三郎 (Tachibana Ichirō 橘一郎); Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 65.

55 Tezuka Osamu, Kisō Tengai 奇想天外 [Bizarre Ideas], October 1977 issue, in Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 73.

56 Kobayashi Ichizō, Shibai zange, 326‑328. While the introduction of the revue genre had led to a revelation of the performers’ bodies, hitherto concealed under the layers of Japanese‑style costumes, the shows themselves were a far cry from the sensational nudity on offer at the Casino de Paris, where the artists descended a grand staircase topless. Shirai Tetsuzō even recalled that when staging his revues in Tokyo in the early 1930s, government censors would arrive to scrupulously measure the dancers’ costumes backstage and ensure that no offense had been made to public decency. An order issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department stipulated that “revue dancers’ bloomers should cover at least ten centimetres of their thighs” (rebyū no odoriko no zurōsu wa momoshita sanzun ijō レビューの踊り子のズロースは股下三寸以上); cited by Kamura Kikuo 香村菊雄, Itoshi no Takarazuka e 愛しの宝塚へ [To My Beloved Takarazuka] (Kobe: Kōbe Shinbun Shuppan Center 神戸新聞出版センター, 1984), 54.

57 Kawasaki Kenko 川崎賢子, Takarazuka to iu yūtopia 宝塚というユートピア [A Utopia Named Takarazuka] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho 岩波新書, 2005), 131.

58 In 1930 Shirai attempted to sidestep the problem by introducing a novel term for Takarazuka’s female performers. He chose the neutral “Takarasienne” (takarajennuタカラジェンヌ), based on the French word “Parisienne.” The decision to refer to male recruits as “boys” in this paper reflects the typology in Anglo‑Saxon revues, where “boys” and “girls” are the standard terms for actors playing supporting roles, in opposition to the show’s stars. Both of these terms suggest an artist whose training is incomplete. Ultimately, this supporting role best sums up the contribution of male performers to Takarazuka.

59 Kimira wa shugyō no mi dakara mada hayai! Ani to imōto to omotte benkyō shinasai.
君らは修業の身だからまだ早い!兄と妹と思って勉強しなさい; Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 75.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid., 76‑77.

62 Kobayashi, May 1948, Omoitsuki, 102‑103.

63 The technique of using a kage chorus in a booth still exists today. Actresses located off stage add their voices to the score to give a fuller sound.

64 During the entire month of August 1951, the troupe performed at a Daigekijō filled beyond capacity despite the stifling heat. The play’s run was twice extended to reach three consecutive months of performances; Takarazuka kageki gojūnen-shi, 1: 182. This run might seem derisory compared to the extraordinary length of some Broadway and West End shows, but is highly unusual for Takarazuka, where shows are generally performed for one month before giving way to the next production, the aim being to keep audiences interested and cash in on the sense of novelty.

65 Sakaguchi Ango, “Ango no shin nihon chiri – Takarazuka joshi senryōgun – Hanshin no maki” 安吾の新日本地理–宝塚女子占領軍–阪神の巻 [Sakaguchi Ango’s New Geography of Japan—the Hanshin volume: Takarazuka’s female occupation army], 1951, reprinted in Sakaguchi Ango zenshū 坂口安吾全集 [The Collected Works of Sakaguchi Ango], 18 vols. (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō 筑摩書房, 1998) vol. 11. Text available online at http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/001095/files/45908_37864.html (accessed March 2016).

66 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 181‑182.

67 Booklet Takarazuka kageki jūgatsu hanagumi kōen kaisetsu to haiyaku 寶塚歌劇十月花組公演―解説と配役 [October Performance by the Flower Troupe: Commentary and cast] (Takarazuka: Takarazuka Kagekidan 寶塚歌劇團, October 1951).

68 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 111. In fact, Tsuji reports that this “invisibility” occurred on another somewhat surprising occasion. Although the boys never appeared openly on stage, some of them were given degrading roles as extras in several Daigekijō productions. They had the unusual “opportunity” of playing the part of a horse, then of a giant monkey, wearing roughly put together animal costumes.

69 Note that the company’s management and artistic direction were carried out exclusively by men, leaving one to wonder if this does not reveal—in contrast to the somewhat idyllic portrayal of an all-female Takarazuka—a gender hierarchy that was clearly unfavourable to the Takarasiennes, who were restricted to the role of simple performers.

70 Remember that the Takarazuka troupe was originally intended as an attraction designed to boost profits on the new train line. Somewhat ironically, Shingeiza now took on this same role of attracting audiences to Takarazuka.

71 Hikita Ichirō, “Shingeiza dōjō no yuku michi” 新芸座道場の行く道 [The Path Walked by Shingeiza Dōjō], Kageki, October 1952, in Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 114.

72 To save money, however, the troupe re-used tailcoats and accessories borrowed from the Revue, lending the boys an appearance that closely resembled the otokoyaku and ensuring a visual identity similar to the mother troupe.

73 Fukushima Wataru 福島亘 (Katsu’ura Yutaka 勝浦豊), Honme Masaaki 本目雅昭 (Honme Mitsugu 本目貢), Nagano Yoshinari 永野喜也 (Fujinami Tatsunari 富士波達也), Ōhashi Tetsurō 大橋徹郎, Sakai Shōichi 酒井尚一, Shibuya Tatsuo 渋谷辰夫 (Shibuya Enshō 渋谷延笑), Takada Jitsuo 高田実男 (Takada Enshō 高田延昇), Yamaoka Keishirō 山岡敬四郎, Yanagibara Orihiro 柳原折弘, Yasunaga Jun’ichi 安永純一 (Kasuga Jun 春日純), Yokota Jirō 横田二郎, and Yoshii Takaaki 吉井孝明 (Yoshii Yūkai 吉井裕海); Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 85.

74 The account given by Fukushima Wataru supports the second hypothesis. He recalls that his contract with Takarazuka explicitly mentioned the possibility of being allocated to the Shingeiza troupe; Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 115. As for Takarazuka performances, Nagano Yoshinari appeared dressed as a giant monkey in Sarutobi Sasuke 猿飛佐助 at the Daigekijō (see footnote 67). Sumi Hanayo 寿美花代 (1932-), who played the lead role of Sasuke, explained during a televised report on the male section that this role was purely decorative, a polite way of saying “completely pointless”; Takarazuka danshibu — onna no sonono hitotsu no monogatari タカラヅカ男子部 — 「女の園」のもうひとつの物語 [The Takarazuka Male Section: Another story of the “garden of women”], TV Osaka テレビ大阪, 2005.

75 This 2,500‑seat theater staged large-scale revues, known as “Kitano Shows,” as well as performances by famous singers such as Eri Chiemi 江利チエミ (1937‑1982) in 1955 and Misora Hibari 美空ひばり (1937‑1989) in 1956. This was a happy time for the male dancers who, although restricted to simply filling the space behind the singers, were finally able to perform on a major stage, something that had been refused to them at Takarazuka. Nevertheless, the Kitano Theater closed down in 1959 and was converted into a cinema.

76 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 182.

77 Kobayashi Ichizō, Takarazuka manpitsu, in Kobayashi Ichizō Zenshū, 2: 467‑468.

78 Tsuji, Otokotachi no Takarazuka, 154.

79 Yoshii Takaaki commented with resignation that “It can’t be helped. Men shouldn’t have entered a dream world belonging to women alone” (仕方がない。女性だけの夢の世界に、男が入るべきではなかったんや); Tōkyō Shinbun, 13 May 2014, http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/national/news/CK2014051302000257.html.

80 The play was a critical and popular success. It won the 10th Senda Korenari Award (Senda Korenari‑shō 千田是也賞), the 33rd Kikuta Kazuo Drama Award (Kikuta Kazuo engeki-shō 菊田一夫演劇賞) and the 15th Yomiuri Grand Prize (Yomiuri engeki taishō enshutsuka-shō 読売演劇大賞演出家賞) for its stage direction. Takarazuka Boys was also staged in 2008, 2010 and 2013 with a run of performances in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Yokohama, Niigata and Chiba.

81 Although the boys’ roles have been played by different actors, the character of Kimihara Yoshie continues to be portrayed by legendary Takarazuka actress Hatsukaze Jun初風諄 (1941‑), forever known as the original—and for many spectators, the best—Marie‑Antoinette in The Rose of Versailles (1974).

82 With the exception of a handful of half-Japanese Takarasiennes.

83 At the risk of offending sensibilities through an exotic—not to mention heavy‑handed and incoherent—treatment of the history of the Western nations where most of the stories are set, the opinions and reception of foreign spectators are not, in most cases, taken into account. The “Japanese-style plays” (nihon-mono 日本物), in which Japanese history is given the same “Takarazuka treatment,” appear to be less cliché ridden but still approximative, as the quest for realism has never been part of Takarazuka’s theatrical conventions.

84 Louis Jouvet, Témoignages sur le théâtre [Theatre Testimonials] (Paris: Flammarion, 1952), 164.

85 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 2. For a cross‑disciplinary study of the phenomenon in a Japanese context, see Stephen Vlastos (ed.), Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

86 In August 1932, Kobayashi Ichizō founded the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater Corporation (Kabushiki‑gaisha Tōkyō Takarazuka Gekijō 株式会社東京宝塚劇場) with the aim of extending his hold over the entertainment industry to the capital (Tōhō being a contraction of the characters for Tokyo‑Takarazuka). The Tōhō Theatrical Company (Tōhō Gekidan 東宝劇団), which now specialises mostly in American and European hit musicals, was launched in 1934, the same year that the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater opened. This venue had two purposes, namely to serve as a regular theater for Takarazuka’s Tokyo‑based activities, since the company had previously rented the theaters where it performed, and to provide a dedicated venue for the Tōhō troupe. Boosted by the success of all-girl revues, the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater soon came to be used exclusively by Takarazuka, and Tōhō artists were moved to the Imperial Theater, which had been purchased by the company in 1940. Due to the corporate links between Tōhō and Takarazuka, the group is also known for welcoming many former revue stars who choose to continue their career in theatre, this time almost exclusively in female roles.

87 In its financial statement for the 2013 fiscal year, Hankyū declared revenues of 28,235 million yen (approximately 200 million euros) for operations in the stage business. This included income from the three Takarazuka theaters (Takarazuka Grand Theater, Tokyo Takarazuka Theater and Bow Hall), the two Osaka venues (Umeda Arts Theater and Theater Drama City), and money made from its tours around Japan and a tour of Taiwan in May 2013. Nevertheless, these are gross figures and thus potentially misleading in that they reveal nothing about the huge production, promotion and running costs associated with staging twenty or so shows each year (around 450 performances annually in the two main theaters alone), nor the cost of paying its employees: around 400 performers, two 35‑member orchestras, in addition to technical crews, management, theater staff, and creative and commercial teams. The real (net) profits generated by Takarazuka thus remain a sensitive subject and a well‑kept secret. For comparative purposes, the theatrical branch at Tōhō, which owns only the Imperial Theater in Tokyo and has a relatively small workforce compared to the Takarazuka “machine,” declared a total profit of 14,511 million yen (around 100 million euro) for the 2013 fiscal year. See Hankyū’s annual report for 2013: 52 (http://www.hankyu-hanshin.co.jp/file_sys/irRelatedInfo/2.pdf, viewed March 2016) and Tōhō’s 2013 fact book: 44 (http://contents.xj-storage.jp/xcontents/AS05040/27b2743f/5be1/4a91/9d43/229f04b85cbd/140120130415017184.pdf, viewed 29 April 2017).

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. Some of the trainees from Takarzuka’s male section, 1946
Caption From left to right: Morimoto Yoshimasa, Mugishima Haruo, Jōkin Fumio, Nishino Kōzō, Inoue Tōru, Sakurai Haruo
Credits © Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1330/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 60k
Title Figure 2: Some of the male recruits in 1953
Caption From left to right: Inoue Tōru, Enami Takayoshi, Suzuki Shigeo, Taji Keiji, Fukushima Wataru, Yamaguchi Akihiko, Jōkin Fumio, Mugishima Haruo
Credits © Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1330/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 27k
Title Figure 3. 26 March 1954, last day of the male section
Caption On the spur of the moment, the members decided to pose for a photographer not far from the Daigekijō before going their separate ways. From left to right, front row: Enami Takayoshi, Jōkin Fumio, Suzuki Shigeo, and Yasunaga Jun’ichi. Middle row: Takada Jitsuo and Inoue Tōru. Back row: Yamaguchi Akihiko, Fukushima Wataru, Nagano Yoshinari, Mugishima Haruo, and Taji Keiji
Credits © Tsuji Norihiko/Kōbe Sōgō Shuppan Center
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1330/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 69k
Title Figure  4: Yoshii Takaaki, Fukushima Wataru, Sakai Shōichi And Suzuki Shigeo
Caption Yoshii Takaaki, Fukushima Wataru, Sakai Shōichi and Suzuki Shigeo in front of the Creation Theater (Tokyo) after a performance of Takarazuka Boys, August 2008
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1330/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 41k
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References

Electronic reference

Claude Michel‑Lesne, « Questioning Women’s Prevalence in Takarazuka Theatre:
The Interplay of Light and Shadow », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 5 | 2016, Online since 15 July 2019, connection on 25 February 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/1330 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cjs.1330

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About the author

Claude Michel‑Lesne

Inalco-CEJ

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Cipango – French Journal of Japanese Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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