No. 11 ― Through the Eyes of the Consul General

After 58 years, Takarazuka Revue performs in Seattle!

On December 3rd, four alumni members of Takarazuka Revue performed in Seattle. When you think of Takarazuka Revue, there comes a strong image of revue-style performances in colorful outfits. Takarazuka Revue evolves dynamically, continuously incorporating innovative performances one after the other. With its first performance in 1914, the troupe can already be considered a “traditional” Japanese performing art.

Kabuki, a well-known representative of traditional Japanese arts, is made up solely of male performers, including those in female roles. Takarazuka, however, is the exact opposite as all the performers are female, including those playing men. In fact, Takarazuka Revue is the world’s only all-female theater group at such a grand scale. In Takarazuka, in order for the male roles to be seen as “manly,” it is said that actresses playing the female roles are to behave daintier, “more feminine than an ordinary woman.” So, no matter what role you see on stage, it never ceases to be interesting.

I learned from my research that Takarazuka Revue performed in Seattle in 1959 and more than 3,000 people attended. This time four alumni members brought together a full house of about 450 attendees at Seattle Center’s Cornish Playhouse. I was told that there were a lot of people who could not even buy tickets. The four actresses, or “Takarasienne,” (Erina Mariho, Rei Ayaka, Mayura Tama, and Nanami Shihō) performed famous scenes from Takarazuka hit shows like “The Rose of Versailles” and medleys alternating Japanese traditional dances with other dance forms like the tango. With an awe-inspiring and overwhelming presence utilizing the entire theater, such as singing while high-fiving audience members up and down the stairs in a way that the audience became part of the show, I really felt that this was indeed Takarazuka.
At the beginning of the event, a young American woman shared her story of how she became a Takarazuka fan during her study in Japan. When she returned to the United States, she saved up money so that she could go back and see the shows and has traveled to Japan at least eight times. She told us that when she got married, she told her husband, “Actually, I have already married Takarazuka, so you are just a sideshow. Sorry!” The audience exploded with laughter.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, Japan is ranked 111 out of 144 countries, measured by its gender gap index. Globally, Japanese women are highly ranked in the fields of education and health, but their participation in the economic and political spheres is still considerably far behind. Yet it is because Japan is still lagging in the advancement of women that makes Takarazuka Revue’s position even more impressive, with its unique history and strong presence at home and overseas. I believe I am not the only one who wants Takarazuka Revue to have more performances worldwide. Especially in the West where women are more actively involved in all spheres of society, I have no doubt that Takarazuka would arouse great interest and draw the curiosity of many, displaying the high level of perfection and reflecting the relevance of its all-female ensemble to today’s world.

Right after the show, despite the 17-hour time difference and just having given an absolutely powerful performance, the four Takarasienne and related staff came to have dinner at my residence. That same day, December 4 (Japan Time), the resident chef Ryuichi Masuko became a father with the birth of his son. At the end of the dinner when Chef Masuko greeted the guests, the actresses grinned and sang “Happy Birthday” in a quartet, a wonderful surprise performance that many could only dream of receiving. From this heartwarming episode, you could see the warmth of the actresses of Takarazuka who continue to live by the motto of “Kiyoku Tadashiku Utsukushiku” (Purity, honesty, beauty). This Takarazuka troupe was indeed truly spectacular!