The Man of our Dreams is a Woman
In the humid heat of the Japanese Summer several hundred women patiently wait outside a building. Sweat glistens on their forehead. Many cool themselves with paper fans. A group of about sixty women stand in the shadow. They all wear a blue shirt with yellow letters.
When someone leaves the building the whole group kneels at the same time. For some time they remain seated like this and then stand straight again. This goes on for hours. Until suddenly the whole group runs forwards. In two neat rows they follow a young man. These are the overly polite fans of the Takarazuka Revue. The man they adore is a woman.
Based in the small city of Takarazuka nearby Osaka, the Takarazuka Revue is an almost mystical theater that attracts fans from all over Japan. Annually 2 million people watch their shows. These are so popular that it is often impossible to get a seat. The average attendance rate is no less than 90 percent. This in spite of the fact that the several halls seat a combined total of 5,000 people.
Shows are an explosion of energy, melodrama and impressive costumes in strong colors. Each show combines a mixture of theater. Stage and musical, musical and review, or another combination, completed with an amazing finale in which 80 dancers in glittering costumes and enormous feathers walk down the famous Takarazuka stairs. It is a celebration of excess.
Takarazuka is a woman's world. Not a single man enters the stage. The 1,300 annual shows are performed exclusively by 400 female actors. They don't only perform the female, but also the male roles.
"They are 'men' as you will never meet in real life," explains the 37-year old Toshiko Ryumoto enthusiastically. She has been a fervent fan for more than fifteen years. She saw the Takarazuka interpretation of the "Phantom of the Opera" 11 times and "Me and my Girl" no less than 13 times. Often the same performance twice a day. The shows transport her to "a dream world where I can forget my daily life".
(The complete article delves deep into the workings and the history of the Takarazuka Review and is available for magazines and newspapers.)
Keywords: special_report entertainment musical androgyny androgynous crossdressing photo_essay
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