glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Takarazuka (All-Female Revues in Japan)  

During the twentieth century in Japan, Takarazuka, all-female musical and theater companies in which women play all roles, have thrived; and actresses playing males have generated large female fan clubs.

The revues are elaborately costumed, flamboyant, and extravagant in execution. These commercially successful and mainstream theatrical enterprises generally present plays with safe, middle-of-the-road topics. During World War II, for example, the productions emphasized patriotic themes and the liberation of other Asians from European exploitation.

Sponsor Message.

Despite the mainstream subjects of Takarazuka, the revues have nonetheless spawned fringe activities that are gender-transgressive and that tellingly illustrate the construction and deconstruction of gender roles.

It is important not to put a Euro-American imprint on Takarazuka. This is a Japanese theater in a Japanese context. It does not map well onto Euro-American concepts of desire, gender, and sexuality.

Theater in Japan became mono-sexual in 1629, when the Tokugawa regime banned women (and later boys) from Kabuki. Men playing women (onnagata) in Kabuki are said to "embody" the ideal of femininity, while women playing men (otokoyaku) in Takarazuka only "represent" masculinity.

The oldest and most successful of the all women groups is the Takarazuka Revue, founded in a hot-springs resort near Osaka in 1913 by Kobayashi Ichizo (1873-1957), a male industrialist, impresario, and politician. He called it "New Citizens' Theater" in contrast to the old and elitist Kabuki. He conceived Takarazuka as a mass theater for families.

The 3,000-seat theater near Osaka sells out regularly during the performing season year after year. The Tokyo troupe is planning a new and larger theater complex near the Tokyo Disneyland. Its most prominent rival, Tokyo's Shochiku Revue, opened in 1928 and ceased regular productions in 1990.

The performers for the three Takarazuka troupes have all been educated and trained in the two-year Takarazuka Music Academy. Entrance to the Academy is highly competitive, and well-off families train their daughters for years to enhance their chances for admission.

The students (and later the performers) are subject to tight discipline and regimes designed to maintain their respectability. Nonetheless, gossip about the performers is intense (and marketed in both official and unofficial venues), and scandals--including lesbian scandals--have occurred. Students are assigned their gender identity after they are accepted, on the basis of appearance (and, to a certain extent, on personal preference). The roles are based on contrasting gender stereotypes.

Thus, the women (musumeyaku) and the men (otokoyaku) are both examples of constructed gender. The otokoyaku's hair is cut short. The Stanislavsky method of acting, which Takarazuka directors have used from the beginning, involves the actors not only creating the internal lives of the characters but also physically embodying them. The musumeyaku are used theatrically to define and enhance the masculinity of the otokoyaku.

Most Takarazuka fans are as respectable and mainstream as the performers--housewives, industrialists, politicians, and teenagers. But the intense fan response (from both women and men) indicates that more is going on than the official ideologies of theatrical gender acknowledge.

Women fans' passions for otokoyaku are multi-faceted. Heterosexual women may feel an attraction for a "romantic" man that they do not experience in their own lives: a man who is "sensitive" because he is a woman. For some women, the otokoyaku expresses a freedom that is not available to them as housewives or secretaries.

There are undeniable lesbian and components to some of the fan relationships. Everything is framed within the complex transgression of a woman being a man while still being a woman. Some fans are crushed when an otokoyaku later in life leaves Takarazuka and becomes an actress. Otokoyaku often maintain their "masculinity" off-stage as well as on. The official reason for this is that they do it out of respect for their fans, but it seems apparent that, as with the fans' reactions, something more complex goes on here as well.

Laurie Toby Edison

     

 
zoom in
Takarazuka performers in 1936.
  
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about The Arts
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

Literature

 
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti


Byron, George Gordon, Lord
Byron, George Gordon, Lord


Modern Drama
Modern Drama


Camp
Camp


Selvadurai, Shyam


Musical Theater


African-American Literature: Gay Male
African-American Literature: Gay Male


Philippine Literature


St. Sebastian
St. Sebastian


Japanese Literature
Japanese Literature

 
 


   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Kings and Male Impersonators

A recent arrival in the drag arena, drag kings are part of an international drag movement that emerged in London and San Francisco in the mid 1980s.

social sciences >> Overview:  Japan

Blending elements from indigenous traditions and recently imported Western discourses of sexual identity, Japan is home to one of the most diverse and dynamic queer cultures in Asia.

arts >> Overview:  Japanese Art

Japanese art, from the prehistoric period onward, features images that can be given queer readings as well as a wide range of representations that contemporary viewers would understand to be homosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Tokyo

Tokyo is home to a vast entertainment world that supports hundreds of venues for individuals with diverse sexual and gender identities and interests.

arts >> Kabuki

Kabuki, a classic Japanese theatrical form incorporating fantastical costumes, stylized gestures, music, and dance, originally showcased female and boy prostitutes, but now features all-male casts.

arts >> Manga

In Japan, manga--or comic books--are an important medium of cultural expression and frequently feature male and female homosexuality.


    Bibliography
   

Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Harper Perennial, 1992.

Robertson, Jennifer. Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Sievers, Sharon. Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1983.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Edison, Laurie Toby  
    Entry Title: Takarazuka (All-Female Revues in Japan)  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 24, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/takarazuka.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.