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the boyladies

When friends return from a trip to Thailand, they talk of many things. They talk of the spicy food; they talk of the full moon parties of which they remember nothing; and they talk of the ladyboys.

To the best of my knowledge, a ladyboy is a boy that wants to be a girl, or possibly a girl that was a boy, even though particular appendages may still be in place. It's quite possible that the term ladyboy covers everyone from a lad with a moustache who calls himself Sue, to a former lad who now has ladybumps the size of small planets, with his middle wicket having recently been removed by a team of crack surgeons, so to speak.

In a small city a stone's throw from Osaka, it's a slightly different story. Here, you'll find the boyladies.

The Takarazuka Revue Company is a theatrical troupe, and a wildly popular one at that, especially among women. Real women, that is.

And what's more, the performers in the troupe are all women. This is where the boylady bit comes in. With no men to play the roles of men, the ladies have to don Y-fronts and beards and do the job for them. And they do it with aplomb.

Below: Some members of the Takarazuka Revue Company.


There are no male members in the Takarazuka Revue Company, both literally and figuratively speaking.




It's not certain how they deal with a scene that involves a high degree of romantic entanglement, but a fair few tickets are bought by people keen to find out...



The troupe has been going since 1913 and productions have included Guys and Dolls, Me and My Girl, and Carry On Up The Khyber.



Singin' in the Rain




Police Academy III




Terminator 2: Judgment Day


Walk down any street in Osaka and you'll see posters for their upcoming production, The Rose of Versaille.

It's about a girl brought up as a man to become her father's successor. At first the girl goes along with the whole idea, but she later realises that her true love is a bloke, at which point she decides to live as a lady, which is what she is - a plot perfect for the Takarazuka treatment.





The storyline certainly got my exciter going.
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On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger Carla Anderson said:

This comment has been removed by the author.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger RonanOD said:

When I taught in Japan I was an Irishman Living in a Very Small Town an Hour From Himeji. Anyway, a fellow (female) teacher gave me a VHS of a Takarazuka show about the Irish 1916 uprising. It ranks as one of the strangest things I have ever watched. Also, it was mind-crushingly boring despite the fact that Padraig Pearse was a chick and I could never listen to "Danny Bo" the same way again.

Thanks for a great blog.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Anonymous Scotty.VOR said:

"An Irishman Living in a Very Small Town an hour from Himeji"? Woah, now there's a blog I'd read. Throw in a few leprechauns in an epic war against samaurai and you've got EM beat. ;)

Anyway, boyladies; is this Takarazuka show tongue in cheek? They still look like...women to me. In my experience Japanese women don't tend to "man up" very well, thank God.

As for real "transgender", I'm still not sure; bringing "bodies into line with brains" could be said for anorexia, or BDD, or a whole host of other mental states: why not let anorexics surgically remove every gram of supposed fat they see? Not really going anywhere with this, just saying...  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Anonymous Deas said:

The new first lady of Japan was apparently a member of the Takarazuka Revue for 6 years. That, her trip to Venus, and her eating the sun add to her "colorfulness." Ha ha.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger Ken Y-N said:

To the left in the white (and in the painting behind) of Singin' in the Rain is Stalin (yes, really)

The one on the right of Police Academy III is actually a more macho version of a role made famous by Yon Sama (yes, really, really)

T2 might be Kaiser Franz-Josef's son who later commits suicide after being haunted by a be-mulletted zombie in the definitive Vienna version.

And wifey reports Exciter wasn't terribly excitering.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger Cailin Coilleach said:

When I was in Osaka in late 2007 they were running a show set in either WWI or WWII. Either way, the poster looked really good and I really wanted to go. Shame to hear that the shows might not be exactly what I expected. Oh well, might go anyway :)

Of course the folks from Sakura Taisen are a nice play on the Takurazuka, what with the all-female theater-and-fighting group.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger Dylan said:

In reply to Scotty.VOR's comment about transgendered people:

The parallel you offer of people with anorexia and transgendered people has several problems. While anorexics would obviously die if they were to surgically remove all their fat, transgendered people, it seems to me, are seeking to address a disconnect they feel between who they are inside and the gender roles they are placed in on the outside. They do not die, obviously, if they have sex reassignment surgery, and if it improves their life, what could be wrong with that? Furthermore, viewing their choices in light of the fact that many gender traits, roles, etc are products of culture leads one to question the idea that transgendered people have a peculiar/unnatural mental state, and perhaps wonder if our culture is the one at fault for not being able to accept variation that falls outside of its notions of what it is to be male and what it is to be female.

I would also like to mention that transgendered people face a whole host of problems that stem from the fact of them being looked in a negative light (unemployment, violence, social exclusion).

While not transgendered myself, once you get to know a transgendered person, it humanizes a situation that from the outside is far too often looked at as bizarre/wrong/strange/pick your adjective.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Walk down any street in Osaka and you'll see posters for their upcoming production, The Rose of Versaille.

It's about a girl brought up as a man to become her father's successor. At first the girl goes along with the whole idea, but she later realises that her true love is a bloke, at which point she decides to live as a lady, which is what she is - a plot perfect for the Takarazuka treatment.


Rose of Versailles, written by Osamu Tezuka who grew up in Takarazuka, has a perfect plot for Takarazuka treatment? Coincidence? I think not.

Furthermore, the revue has performed Rose of Versailles approximately 10 million times before, exactly the number of letters in Takarazuka divided by million. Another coincidence? You decide.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I think Gackt is definately a ladyboyman...  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Blogger Peter in Japan said:

Why call them boyladies? They're extremely dedicated performers and fabulous at what they do. Do you trash the female-role Kabuki actors too? Someone needs to relax a little.  



On Monday, 14 September, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Oh for gawd sake lighten-up...if you want to have a serious debate about transgender issues, may I respectfully suggest you bugger-off somewhere else and leave us EIO fans to enjoy his delightful observations with the humour with which they were clearly intended.  



On Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said:

"Carry on up the Khyber"?!  



On Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, Anonymous Invader Stu said:

I don't know if it is the same group but there is an all lady musical of the computer game Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJhdCwmO7tc  



On Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, Blogger Catherine said:

sounds like a solid role reversal to me - a change from Shakespeare's day when all the roles were played by boys...  



On Wednesday, 16 September, 2009, Blogger Softbank Sucks said:

Miyuki Hatoyama was in Takarazuka, but I don't think she ever rose to the level of otokoyaku - or as we like to call it, otakoyaki.  



On Friday, 18 September, 2009, Blogger Carla Anderson said:

This comment has been removed by the author.  



On Saturday, 19 September, 2009, Anonymous praise said:

The one on the lower left is qute, man or woman or boy lady or lady boy.  



On Sunday, 27 September, 2009, Blogger Munin said:

Haha... "middle wicket". What a great turn of phrase. Hailing from England, I am rather miffed at not encountering the phrase earlier.  



On Tuesday, 02 February, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I was searching for some nice pictures from Takarazuka, and I came across your blog entry. You got some really nice pictures of Sena Jun [2nd and 3rd pic] Also the one with the four actresses [Sena Jun on top left and Todoroki Yuu at the bottom right].
These actresses playing only male roles are called Otokoyaku, and they are actually incredible while performing such roles.it takes them 10+ years to master to lower their voices and act in a masculine way.
Takarazuka plays are mostly about love so there is a lot of "kissing"[well stage kissing] and sometimes more than just kissing they need to express passion and sexual attractiveness, with very sensual dances, touches, etc.
one example of such is the "bed scene" in the play Passion, that portraits the story of Carmen and her lover Jose. The scene begins with Jose saying sweet things to Carmen, they start dancing sensually and they end up rolling on Carmen's bed, until Jose kisses Carmen and then left everything else to the audience's imagination.
The particular version I have seen, with Zunko as Jose and O-hana as Carmen, two of the most Legendary actresses, You didn't see two women making out on stage, You were seeing Carmen and Jose, a woman and a man passionately in love. They are so talented and perfect to what they do, that their androgyny do not bother, on the contrary it drives the ladies crazy :)  



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