Episode 23: Fan Letters and Presents

Some not-at-all-official advice and gossip from Elin, Lella, Becca, and Jen. Finally managed to get all our time zones lined up again! 😉

Links to Things Mentioned in the Podcast:

Actresses:

Glossary:

Becca’s research just for you:

Also, about flowers from Leonie Rae Stickland’s Gender Gymnastics book (keep in mind this was from before the company stopped this):

“In addition to its function as a source of enjoyment for Revue enthusiasts of either gender, Takarazuka fandom fulfills an important economic role which benefits the Revue itself, its parent company, Hankyu, and many other enterprises of various sizes.  Fans purchase theater and train tickets; Revue-related merchandise such as fan magazines, related books, Compact-and Digital Versatile Disks; and other miscellaneous goods bearing Takarazuka logos.  They probably also patronize Hankyu’s department stores and hotels around Japan, where Hankyu’s link with Takarazuka is made obvious by the prominent display of posters and panels bearing pictures of Revue stars.  In central Takarazuka, and to a lesser extent in Tokyo’s Yurakucho, adjacent to the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre, many bars, restaurants, florists, other retail stores and service outlets look to fans for much of their custom.  The horticulture industry, for which Takarazuka itself is one of the three biggest producing areas in the country, also profits greatly from fans’ purchase of cut or potted flowers to present to their favorite stars, to the extent that fans’ purchases allegedly influence the national wholesale price.”

18 thoughts on “Episode 23: Fan Letters and Presents”

  1. Hey girls! Grimsg here. Yeah you’ll prolly know me as the crazy Singaporean who’s been translating all those GRAPH and Kageki articles on TakaWiki. Thanks for doing this podcast! That’s really funny you guys mentioned fan letters / gifts because I actually did send out a fan letter for Sagiri Seina & Sakihi Miyu bout a fortnight ago. I’ve written fan letters to Hollywood actresses before but this was my first fan letter I’ve written in crap Japanese (and this is literally the 2nd time I’ve written anything in Japanese) and English. I felt compelled to write to them both after translating Chigi-Miyu’s retirement press conference in GRAPH Feb 2017 and was honestly touched by Chigi’s comment to Miyu when they first teamed up as a top-combi: (I’m paraphrasing) ‘no matter what happens, we’ll experience it together and move together as a whole, in the same direction’ and I thought that really is the sweetest most reassuring thing to say, I was honestly impressed by Sagiri’s character and her determination that she really wanted their ‘work marriage’ to work. I thought that was so awesome. I’ve never seen any of their live performances (I did manage to watch Caleb Heart/ Greatest Hits eventually) but I’ve seen many of their interviews which I found on youtube.com and bilibili and they really have such great work chemistry and I think they honestly do look out for each other on and off stage. I’ve only seen my first live performance this Jan 2017 which was ‘Grand Hotel’ @ Grand Theater and I was just blown away by everything, so I’ve been reading up on everything I can find about the fan culture, the business, the stuff the actresses are subjected to at TMS, everything. And yeah, it’s been really fun translating the GRAPH and Kageki articles too and I have learned a lot about people’s lives as performers and also have also picked up some good words of wisdom.

    So about fan mail: I basically start by saying ‘Hi my name is X, I’m from Singapore and I really enjoyed your performance in Y.’ And then in order not to get super gushy because it’s just really weird for me to write it and the other person to read it, I talk more about what I felt about the performance, what I liked about it, what I liked about the show content, parts I thought the actress did really well. I basically think about the actress as a person who does this really cool job and they’re still a person at the end of the day. My goal and purpose of fan letters is more of a big pat on the back for a job well done, that their performance really moved me and that I was really appreciative of it. And even though I know I’ll probably never get a reply back, I suppose it’s a hope that if it reaches them, it’s a small something that would brighten up their day and keep them going when the going gets tough. Then usually at the end of my letter I say something like ‘oh come visit Singapore some day’ and just pimp my country a bit, as an ending. And sign off with something encouraging like ‘hope to see your next performance, keep being awesome and take care!’ That’s generally how I format my fan letters.

    RE: Writing in Japanese. If you’re not sure how to write any, please don’t use Google Translate, it does come out very weird and sounds like gobblygook. If you know some Japanese but you’re worried about grammar, I think just write the message anyway, I’m sure they’ll be understanding, yeah and you can use the online dictionary jisho.org for help too if you don’t know some words. I think contrary to belief, Japanese people can read English, they just don’t have practice speaking and writing so if you’re not confident of your Japanese, by all means write in English but simplify it as much as possible, like use simple sentences like, grade school level. eg. ‘Hi, my name is X. I’m from Y. I am a huge fan of yours! I watched you in ‘Grand Hotel’ and thought you were amazing!’ kind of thing.

    RE: fan letters as therapy. Yeah I think some people treat fan letters as a kind of bizarre therapy as well because people tend to unload their life story to their idol because they just want someone to listen to them as they’re lonely or are going through a rough patch in life.

    RE: Salty fans. That’s funny that some of you guys noticed ‘salty older fans’ that said stuff like ‘her dancing was terrible, it was better the other day, she didn’t listen to my advice’ and stuff like that. I think that’s kind of universal salty fan behavior, regardless of race and culture. I used to work in Lucasfilm on Star Wars and as you know, Star Wars fans are REALLY passionate and can also be very salty people because some of them have ideals in their head on what they want certain characters to behave like. eg. Boba Fett is supposed to be like this, he can’t do that etc. and in my spare time, I would browse fan reviews of Clone Wars episodes and be amused by people who will scrutinize every single frame of 3D animation and pick out mistakes, inconsistent frames, etc. So yeah, I suppose you’ll always get those sort of people in any fandom.

    RE: Gifts. Ok that bit about ‘favorite colors, flowers, items you collect’ as published in the Otome column in Kageki, I totally did not know that that’s a hint for fans to give stuff to actresses. The thought of giving jewelry and items of clothing is really whoa. But it makes sense because poor actresses can’t afford branded goods to up her status, but man, the fact she’s got to provide her own clothing for shoots!!? That can be an expensive affair. Yeah I think giving food is a bit hmm but I suppose if it’s individually wrapped and make sure it doesn’t expire if you send it, than it’s ok. Also I’m guessing it’ll probably just be left in the pantry somewhere and everyone will get round to have some. I’m really impressed by the stuff you guys have sent to actresses! The mix tape and books stuff was really cool!

    RE: Fan culture – I’m not big on joining interest groups in general but I must say the Takarazuka fan culture is really intriguing. It’s like this little army with its own set of specific rules and everything. I’m most happy being a bystander and watching from afar, but it’s cool that people in the fan groups are helpful and are willing to help out newbies, foreigner or otherwise.

    RE: Hi-fiving/ fist bumping an actress. Yeah that’s got to be the most amazing thing ever especially if it’s your favorite actress too. And I’m sure she must have felt super amused and appreciative too. I have this temptation to stand and clap or yell out ‘WE LOVE YOU !’ or ‘WE LOVE YOU ‘ when a show ends. but knowing conservative Japanese theater people, I know I shouldn’t. I’d get flamed for being a stupid gaijin or something.

    RE: The business of Takarazuka, no more gifting of flowers. yeah come to think of it, Takarazuka City gets a huge tourism boost because of the revue: People go to the restaurants, check themselves into hotels, buy merch, shop at the Hankyu dept store, and the fact that the company disallowed sending of flowers because they just got too many, many florists actually closed down…yeah that’s sad. That is interesting to note that if you send fan letters to the company, they actually statistically track them to check star popularity, I suppose they would do the same with stock checks from all their merch stores too: Like how much merch a certain star sold. I’m sure they check all the Sky Stage ratings as well to see which programs did well etc. That’s interesting that the fan groups take note of this meta and encourage fans to buy postcards and goods from the merch store for that specific actress to ‘up their star demand’.

    RE: That the actresses actually use Takawiki.com. Yeah that’s REALLY COOL that they actually know what it is!! That’s kind of funny you mention that because when I was in Lucasfilm, some Lucas staff would actually use Wookiepedia (fan run wiki) to find Star Wars info as well, because it really did have all the info in one place! It was slower to ask the person in another department sometimes so checking Wookiepedia was actually the fastest way to get info.

    Anyways, really cool podcast you guys have been doing! Looking forward to more and I’ll just be doing my usual translating of the articles and sticking em on TakaWiki!

    1. Thank you for your amazing comment! It’s always fun to hear other fan’s experiences, and it was really cool to hear you compare some of the aspects to Star Wars! Your mentioning Lucasfilms employees using the fan wiki because it’s faster reminds me of one of my favorite authors, who tends to just send a message to her fanbase when she needs to find a reference in an earlier book and she can’t remember exactly where it was. XD

      About shouting out in the theater: It’s totally done, especially during speeches by the actresses at the end of important performances (like shinjin kouen and closing performances. Lots of fans screaming out: “I love you, Xxxx!”

      About the Otome… I was specifically referencing the Otome yearbook that is published every year, not any article in Kageki, although I bet those articles are based on the Otome info. 🙂 I think the info is useful, and I know younger members sometimes put down that they collect really crazy things to see if fans will send it to them, but by the time they get older they tend to get pretty generic.

      Thanks so much for all your translating! It’s always fun to see new translations linked to the TakaWiki. 😀

      1. Hey Jen!

        RE: checking of fan databases – this was because due to the nature of Lucasfilm, they have to be very protective of their story IP so the keeper of the keys is like 1 person. So if he’s not free and you need the info fast, that’s why people would just check Wookiepedia and because the fan database was so comprehensive, it did the job. I suppose if people needed REALLY specific info that’s top secret and in production, than yes, they would have to contact the 1 guy.

        Shouting in the theater: yeah I would totally want to yell out ‘WE LOVE YOU XXX TROUPE!’ or ‘WE LOVE YOU XXX’ but I suppose that’s for the adlib section at the end of the show. I’ve seen some dinner show clips and I think the audience is more vocal there which is cool. I’d love to go to a dinner show, I think the performances are more intimate too.

        RE: Otome – ohh the yearbook, ok ok. But yeah that is funny that staff/ actresses might utilize takawiki.com to find info because it’s easier to refer rather than flip through a hardcopy book.

        Catch you guys later on the TakaWiki! Yeah lots of stuff went down the last few days with retirements, ascensions and the like…

    2. I just recently got into Takarazuka and have seen your name a bunch with all of your recent magazine translations – thank you so much! I especially enjoyed the snowman one because even though I doubt they really interact often they had specific aspects of each other nailed (like how Kurenai-san would only give like 50% effort – so relatable lol). And I just have to say, I’m about to start my job at ILM (part of Lucasfilm) at the SF studio and when I was an intern last year I was floored by the work coming out of Singapore! The turn around times were insane and yet it looked consistently awesome. Everyone has a right to their opinion of course but sometimes I’d like to see the especially vocal critics try and do some of the same work lol. I bet they’d appreciate the final result even more afterwards!

      1. Hey Haley!

        Aw thanks! I’ve figured people do read the translations, just quietly without comment : ). I kind of wonder what people want to read but since I can’t translate everything obviously, I go for stuff that features the more prominent stars and some rising stars. I don’t translate specific production commentaries because 1. its really long (4-5 pages) 2. hard for people to relate if they haven’t seen the show and 3. it’s mostly bout work so yeah. I like to translate anecdotal things to learn more about the people who perform on stage.

        The Snowman question was actually pretty funny. I think they all know that Kurenai-san is very good at what she does, but she has a lazy streak and even Kurenai-san herself knows that she can be really lazy sometimes.

        RE: working at ILM – that is SO FUNNY because I did my internship up at Big Rock and I used to stay in the Presidio. I came back from SF and worked in Lucasfilm Singapore till I left. So when I was working there still, I did see some of the work that comes out of ILM SG and yeah some of it is really great stuff. It’s probably EVEN BETTER NOW.

        I went back to SF recently to say hi to friends up at LDAC. It was surreal seeing them again after 6+ years.

        Drop me a PM on TakaWiki.com and we can talk more bout this stuff

  2. Lella and Elin, it was so nice to hear your voices on a regular episode again XD

    I’ve had numerous embarrassing fan letter incidents… In advance of her Sendai charity tour last year I’d written Komu a very cheerful gushy multi-page letter about her last show and the NY announcement, and then it wound up being HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE after we visited the recovery effort in Ishinomaki… but of course I was so proud of myself for being “prepared” I didn’t bring any stationery to write a new one ^^; I had to tear it open, insert an apology on my friend’s paper, and patch the envelope with haphazard washi tape.

    For current actresses who I won’t mention, once at an ochakai I spaced out, cut the flower photo line, tried to run once I realized what I’d done, and tripped horribly on my way to hand in an already embarrassing last minute train letter. Another time I was dropping one off at the stage door and, trying to prove (to the security guard I guess??) that I was so together I didn’t need to double check my kanji, I wrote the actress’s name WILDLY wrong on the drop-off form in my nervousness, left, and had to go back inside 5 minutes later (to the guard’s amusement). I’ve also indecisively written to someone in 3 or 4 different name/nickname/honorific combinations and counting.

    Soooo if you’re struggling to find the courage to write to your favorite actress, take comfort in the fact that you CAN’T DO WORSE THAN THAT, and I haven’t been banned from the fandom yet haha.

    Also re: ink vs. pencil, if you haven’t written with a Frixion Ball yet, next time you’re in Japan, go to LOFT and buy 40. They will change your life, no exaggeration.

  3. Always enjoy listening to your postcast.
    Thank you again for another fun one.
    Also it was so interesting to hear all different info and rumors each of you has got about the letters and presents. Ha..ha..
    As you have said, thoughts all counts. They all appreciate your thought and support, no matter what.

    As Lella mentioned, the word “初日の出”
    Most Japanese ( don’t know anything about Zuka ) read “Hatsu Hinode, means the first sunrise of this year.
    But when Zuka fans see this word, they immediately read “Shonichi no de” unconsciously, which means Demachi on
    Shonich.

    As for letters, I strongly encourage you to write them in English if you hardy understand Japanese, and have to depend on the most by the translation app.

    But even if they don’t understand your English letters, someone always..definitely help them to translate, but they never ask it to other troupe members, other bilingual sienne, not even same classmates as long as they are current members. NEVER..EVER…
    I don’t know why… may be embarrassing??

    As for the presents, it’s all depend on that person.
    Some love to get sweets, and some not so much.
    For example, Aichan ( Aizuki Hikaru) loves it, but Junko only loves it as long as it would be her favorite sweets.
    Aichan has told me loooong time ago, she sweats like a dog after hard dancing scenes, so her body requires some sugar. So now her personal assistant in Soragumi ( her name is Maihana Miria) prepares some small sweets and water, easy to pop it in her month, when Aichan comes back to the of stage.

    T-shirts are good idea, too.
    But I am afraid jewelry or clothes aren’t.
    Yes… they do need clothes for the photo shoots and jewelry on stage, but each has different taste on fashion, so if they aren’t their taste, they will go to someone else.

    Again., speaking of Aichan, her sponsor fans usually take her shopping on dark days. And other big stars are in the same situation.
    Or the club gets something she wants/ needs and gives it to her at the Tea Party as a present from the fans.

    Young ones..underclass people may need them, so more appreciate it.

    I personally think CD is such a good idea.
    Either the music related to the production, or anything makes them feel relaxed. They do need something healing and relaxing them at home or nice to listen to in a car.
    They don’t have much time to get to know music from other countries ( unless it’s also big hit in Japan), so they would love that.
    I often hear from them, ” I’ve got this CD from the fan and I really like and enjoy it ”

    Good luck you all…

    1. Thank you, Sakiko! You always have great knowledge to share. 🙂

      I had heard about the clothes/jewelry from fellow fans who I think would fall into the “sponsor” category. They had money to burn, had been fans for a long time, and knew the daihyou and actress well. So I think they could ask directly what kinds of things to buy. You’re right, without that knowledge it’s likely you’ll spend money on something inappropriate. Actually, I always ran into the problem mentioned in a comment below: I was never sure of clothing size and too shy to ask staff. …. Plus didn’t really have money for the “good stuff”!

      I meant to mention in the episode, about sweets… another of the reasons I suggest not sending them is that things melt and get banged around if you’re shipping them internationally! I’ve gotten well-meant presents from friends that were just puddles by the time they reached me. XD

      I’m glad to hear that CDs are a hit! Mix CDs and fan art were often my big sends when I had no money at all. XDXD

  4. Takawiki is a great site and that’s funny how a takarasienne was using it for reference.

    It’s so nice listening to older fans stories and it’s also great to have Lella there because she’s asking things that I would ask, as a younger fan 😉

    I’ve never sent a fan letter to a current takarasienne even though I’ve thought about it so much. I even had the takawiki fan letter address page open in one of my browser tabs for months. But I have sent letters to an OG. Sometimes she’d take videos or photos of the stack of letters+presents that she gets and I would be trying to spot if mine is there lol. Which reminds me, her birthday is in 3 months, I need to plan what to get now.

    Btw, how do we know what size to buy if we’re getting a t-shirt or something for a current takarasienne?

    Question 2. I have seen a video of demachi where two takarasiennes would stand together addressing the fans. The audio wasn’t very good so I couldn’t catch what they were saying. So I was wondering if that’s like fan clubs collaborating, is that even a thing?

    1. TM – thank you for your comment, glad you enjoyed!

      Re: T-shirts, to be honest, this is a little hard and I don’t know ^^; (Despite having given out multiple t-shirts over the years!) As convenient as it would be for us gift-giving fans, this kind of thing isn’t listed. Something petite is probably your best best (since most seito are pretty slender). On the other hand, I’m not a dancer and I don’t know how much ease they like in rehearsal clothes.

      Re #2: Yes, occasionally siennes will have collaboration events! Souken are special viewings of the show organized by clubs, and sometime they’ll have collaboration souken with other seito. I know Micchan and Fuu used to do this, and there are plenty of other examples. As a special bonus you get some kind of little gift with your ticket, usually a photo or a small tchotchke.

      Anyway, a long time ago, a friend of mine participated in a “douki souken” event with her star and her star’s classmate. At demachi the two stars switched clubs, and gave each one an address! That’s the first thing that pops into my mind for why multiple seito would be addressing a club.

      Also, the heads of the different clubs end up having to interact a lot – the places where clubs stand is based on seniority of the star and there’s a lot of shuffling around depending on the day.

      (Sorry if that was way more information than you wanted to know!)

      1. Great info, Becca. Thanks!
        In another fandom that I was involved with previously, the agency actually releases the artists’ 3-size. So it was easier for fans to get gifts XD. No matter, I’ll get the small size.

        Douki souken sounds so awesome, I would love to witness doukis interacting in front of my eyes. The video that I saw was not the top combi; it was a top musumeyaku and an otokoyaku, they’re not douki but seem to be good friends.

        1. Hi TM! I just wanted to pop in here and say that sometimes the actresses will do demachi together or quick fun things with their clubs at demachi (possibly irimachi too, but I think they don’t have as much time for it on the way in). The video you mentioned reminded me of one of the ones I recorded of Aizuki Hikaru (Aichan) and Misaki Rion (Mirion) on Tokyo shounichi for Elisabeth last year. I couldn’t hear them very well so I’m not sure what they were talking about (sooo many people piled around the corner of the theater to see them), but they both came out at the same time and talked to both of their clubs together. Just over a week later we went to see the show and stayed for demachi, and Aichan came out with Sorahane Riku (they’re both 93rds, my favorite class <3 ) and high-fived everyone in both their fanclubs. It was so fun to watch! So you can witness some fun stuff at iride too. I haven't been to too many, but it seems like Soragumi members like to do things like that often – or maybe it was because it was Elisabeth. Not sure, but it makes standing around afterward that much more worth it!

          Al and I took video of both of these, quality isn't super great since it was at night but they're pretty fun – Aichan got surprised by a cockroach at the beginning of the first one and Mirion comes over like "I'll protect you!"

          https://www.instagram.com/p/BKLTYVkBvbH/?taken-by=specterales

          High-fives!

          https://www.instagram.com/p/BKf2wUqBA0y/?taken-by=magneticjade
          https://www.instagram.com/p/BKf3ziJBWAu/?taken-by=specterales

  5. Hey, Heidi. Thanks for sharing 😉
    I don’t follow soragumisei (other than zunchan and sorakun). Ahh Aichan and Riku were so cute in that vid. You’re lucky to have gotten to see it!

  6. Hi, I’ve been listened to your guys podcast for a few days. It was very nice to find this blog and I like all your enthusiastic and fun discussions about Takarazuka. Please continue to do it, many thanks!

  7. I’ve come full circle! This was the first Zuka Podcast I ever listened to, but re-listening was super fun as well <3 It's nice to listen to reviews of shows, but I think it's even more fun to hear about the "fan experience" from people who are / have been in Japan. There's a LOT of good information in the comments here too!! Thank you ladies — there's too much to comment on, but I love it all <3 <3 <3

  8. Hi guys 😀 thank you for another amazing episode!

    By the way, when want to find an actress’s profile on the official page but can’t read Kanji, you can mouse over the names and the link preview in the bottom left of your browser will spell out the name in Romaji.

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