Special #12: The War Years (1930s and 1940s)

This was such a fun episode to put together, and I hope some of our listeners enjoy it! Sorry for the long wait, but hopefully we’ll have some more new episodes for you soon!


In the 1920s, otokoyaku (male-role players) had not yet begun to cut their hair short, and instead bound it up out of the way under hats. Performances often consisted of 3-6 different shows, including chorales, ballets, and Japanese and Western folk tale themes. Note the pre-war Japanese writing from right to left. [left] Otokoyaku star Tatsumi Sumiko (active 1920 – 1926, 1927 – 1935). Postcard, year and production unknown. Personal collection. [right] Ono Shinobu (active 1921 – 1933) as Ostap and Akatsuki Ruriko (active 1924 – 1929) as Ivan. Postcard, Ivan the Clever (Snow Troupe, 1928). Personal collection.


Even as early as 1935, Kobayashi Ichizou must have been thinking of how to use his troupe to help spread Japanese culture, as evidenced by this English-language pamphlet for the 1935 Flower Troupe production of Takara Sambaso / Yakko Dojoji / Hanashishuu at the Kyoto Takarazuka Theater. Amatsu Otome (active 1918 – 1980) pictured. Personal collection.


In the 1930s and 1940s, there were several productions set in China and occupied China. In the 1938 From Manchuria to Northern China, the two main characters travel by rail to see the sights, stopping at many cities that their Japanese audience would have known well. [left] Unforgettable Song / Cherry Blossom Girl / From Manchuria to Northern China program cover. Personal collection. [right] A scene in From Manchuria to Northern China, featuring 1930s stars Sonoi Keiko (active 1930 – 1942) as Beppu and Ashihara Kuniko (active 1929 – 1939) as Arima. Postcard, personal collection. Sonoi Keiko passed away in 1945, a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.


Star Kasugano Yashiyo (active 1929 – 2012) in Pinocchio (1942), the last Western show to slip through the censors, since Pinocchio was from allied Italy. Hankyu publication “The Prince of the White Rose” (2013). For more glimpses of Takarazuka star and treasure Kasugano Yachiyo in action, check out this short 3 minute video on YouTube with footage from the 1950s (including Gubijin).


The Takarazuka Music School uniform changed to its current incarnation during the war, becoming more militaristic and reflecting allied German school influences. [left] A photo of three young Takarasienne along the Muko River in Takarazuka from 1932. Umeka Fumiko (active 1928 – 1941), Yashiro Keiko (active 1930 – 1942), and Kasugano Yachiyo. Hankyu publication “The Prince of the White Rose” (2013). [center] At retirement, a uniform version of the green hakama is often still worn. Seal of Roses final night in Takarazuka. Pictured are Mihara Shiho, Emi Kurara, and Shibuki Jun. From March 2004 GRAPH, personal collection. [right] The current TMS uniforms, as seen in an advertisement for the entrance exams in 2015. Pictured are the 101st graduating class. Personal collection.


It didn’t take long for the otokoyaku to be back in civilian suits and the ladies to be symbolically traveling around the world once more. And no doubt the occupational forces were an incentive to bring a lot of the USA into their shows. Note the floor mics, as this was before wireless mics were introduced in the Revue. Lots of lighting was used in Takarazuka productions even then, as Kobayashi Ichizou had been on a Tokyo electricity board of directors and was interested in its applications. Marriage at Rio / Tokyo ・ New York (Moon Troupe – 1949). From October 1949 GRAPH, personal collection.

Other YouTube videos

Edited (w/music) short 2 minute clip of the 1946 “Spring Dance” color footage
Color (silent) footage of the 1946 “Spring Dance” which re-opened the Takarazuka Grand Theater after the war.  (They call it “complete,” but I notice it doesn’t have the rockette fragments. Hm.)
Footage taken by a GI in Takarazuka City in 1948
Parts one & two of a Takarazuka Revue Sky Stage show about the international tours of the 1930s which includes maps and news footage, even if you don’t understand Japanese.

Music used in this episode
“Boogie-Woogie Paris” from Boogie-Woogie Paris (1949), sung by Koshiji Fubuki
“Akai Keshi no Hana” from Gubijin (1951), sung by Tsukushi Mari
“Ano Musume wa Suteki” from Chanson du Paris (1952), sung by Sumi Hanayo, Minakaze Youko, and Akashi Teruko

Movies that may be of interest
Sayonara (1957), where the heroine was based on Takarasienne.
University of Laughs (2004), which depicts the theater censorship of the early 1940s.

Musicals that may be of interest
Love and Youth of Takarazuka, about the Takarazuka actresses during the war years, performed with OGs and available on DVD (Japanese site).
Takarazuka Boys, about the young men who joined the Revue in the 1940s. It’s revived every few years and often stars an OG or two (Japanese site).

Websites that may be of interest
Takarazuka Wiki, for more information on actresses, directors, and performances mentioned in this episode.
Takarazuka Forever, a truly impressive private collection of vintage scanned Takarazuka Revue images.
Old Tokyo: Vintage Postcard Museum, which contains pictures and information on the Revue from the 30s and 40s.
Vintage Takarazuka, a Japanese website with scanned images from programs and record covers, beginning in the 1950s, as well as a lot of interesting info.

Resources
Robertson, J. (1992). Doing and Undoing “Male” and “Female” in Japan: The Takarazuka Revue. In T. S. Lebra (Ed.), Japanese Social Organization (pp. 165-194).
Takarazuka Kageki 90-nenshi: Sumire Hana Toshi o Kasanete (2004). (ISBN 4-484-04601-6)
Takarazuka Kageki 100-nenshi: Niji no Hashi Wataritsuzukete (Ningen-hen) (2014). (ISBN 978-4-484-14601-0)
Yamanashi, M. (2012). A History of the Takarazuka Revue Since 1914: Modernity, Girls’ Culture, Japan Pop.

9 thoughts on “Special #12: The War Years (1930s and 1940s)”

  1. Jen..
    I am so impressed by all the history info you’ve got.
    You are almost a historian of Takarazuka Revue Company.

    1. Oh, I wish! That would be a lot of fun, but my Japanese has gotten so rusty. XD I could never do primary research seriously enough.

      This was fun, though!

    1. Yay! Thanks, Rachel. I know it’s not as much fun with just one person droning on, but I hoped the interesting stuff would make up for it. :3

  2. This is awesome! I loved it, even when it’s just you going through your extensive Takarazuka history knowledge 😉 I would definitely listen to more if you have more you want to share!!

  3. Hi Jen Great episode! I have two books that you referenced and now I feel inspired to read back through them and refresh my contextual imagery of old time Takarazuka. I love the historical details and the clips you linked and musical bits added a great feel to the episode. Keep up the good work! Still catching up on listening to the pods but I’ll try to leave a comment on them, even if it’s an old episode……
    And actually a shorter episode and only one person speaking worked better with my sensory processing issues and made it easier for me to enjoy. : ) Will keep trying to catch up on all of them though ; ) I do agree with people above that it was really interesting to hear your history knowledge and I would definitely tune in for more of that!

  4. And oops this is an old post and I see that there are more history specials and I look forward to time traveling along…. ((((^ ^ )

    1. Nooo, feedback is ALWAYS awesome, thank you! I look forward to hearing what you think of the other history eps. 🙂

      Your first comment also brings up something that I’d been wondering about. I teach a lot of students with auditory processing delays, actually, so it’s been on my mind. For these solo shows, I tend to write out a script to try and keep myself on topic. Do you think it would be useful/helpful for me to post my scripts up along with the episodes? They’re pretty rough and typo-riddled, but I could clean them up a bit.

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