How Scalping Tickets to Takarazuka Can Be A Fine Cultural Experience

Takarazuka Grand Hotel Program

Takrazuka Grand Hotel Program

Thanks to burning the candle at both ends, plus a heavy dose of prednisone-induced insomnia, I’ve been on my trip to Japan for three days now and a bit behind on the blogging. Blogging while sleepy is a bit like blogging while driving…you can do it but should you do it?…

Well, I’m just going to plunge in, if my heavy eyelids close in the middle, hopefully my forehead will hit the “publish” key as I hit the pillows.

My first day in Tokyo was to be a get-over-jetlag day.  Then my daughter asked me to get her some Takarazuka DVDs  for her thesis research, and then I decided since I was going to the Takarazuka Theater in Tokyo, well why wouldn’t I want to see a show? Only problem was that the show, Grand Hotel, was completely sold out. Of course, that is a problem only if you mind a little cultural adventure. I don’t, and so I consulted with my daughter to see if there was any way I could still see the show.  There was, she said…if I didn’t mind trying to buy scalped ticket with my non-existant Japanese language skills.

For those not familiar, The Takarazuka Revue is a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe.  Women play all roles in lavish, Broadway-style productions of Western-style musicals. Started in 1914, Takarazuka is a sort-of counter to the all-male Kabuki theater. There is generally a play, an intermission, and then a Vegas-style musical review.

Back to my Takarazuka scalping and theater experience. Getting to the Takarazuka theater was quite easy from my hotel…only 2 stops on the subway.  I got to the theater and thought I’d take a lark and ask if there were any tickets at the box office. Standing Room Only I was told.  Well that wasn’t going to work with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I passed. Found the Chanter Department store across from the theater and in the basement of that store is a large merch store for Takarazuka. I had a shopping list of DVDs from my daughter (thoughtfully including images from the CD covers).  I mostly sailed through buying 7 out of the 10 DVDs she requested in the merch store. After the merch, I looked longingly at the next-door Takarazuka themed beauty parlor (get your makeup done like your favorite Takarazuka star!).

I could delay the inevitable no longer. It was time to go out into the scary world of international ticket scalping.

Now, just like in all of Japanese society, there is a ritualized way to try to scalp a Takrazuka ticket. Somehow, my daughter came up with this information for me:

If you are buying a ticket, you stand in front of the Chanter Department store, holding your wallet OUT visibly so sellers can see that you are interested. The sellers then approach the buyers. I guess the entire thing is legal because the tickets are sold at face value.

Well, I stood and stood and stood in front of the Chanter Department store, hoping really hard that someone would be brave enough to sell a ticket to the curyly-haired Gaijin.  There were about 7 women wanting to buy tickets.  As sellers showed up (they seemingly just went up to who they liked best, and sold the ticket.  As buyers were finding their tickets, the show was drawing nearer and nearer and I started to think I wouldn’t get in.

Then, out of nowhere with 15 minutes to spare, this very young girl and her friend came up to me…they were like “B Ticket?) (B Ticket is definitely in the nose bleed section–but I did not care!).  I was like hai hai hai! They sold me the approximately $35.00 USA ticket, made ms somehow understand that I’d get my change in the theater, and I was in!!

I had little time to spare…bathroom, up 4 flights of escalators, rental of opera glasses, and water purchase and I sat down right as the house lights came down, right next to my young ticket seller. I got my change and the show began.

Takarazuka presenting Grand Hotel was quite the thing to see!   The costumes were grand, the melodramatic style of the play suited Takrazuka well, and the choreography by Tommy Tune was brilliant.  You don’t need to speak Japanese to enjoy Takarazuka; a plot synopsis from the Internet helps; if you know the plot you can approach the show like an Italian Opera. My favorite actress played the Baron, I also loved the ethereal ballerina, but it was a very talented cast overall. I was impressed by the vastness of the stage and the full orchestra.

After the intermission, the musical revue was incredible; over-the-top costumes and big musical nunmbers gave the entire thing a very Las Vegas feel;it was fun. I was a bit surprised that the musical numbers didn’t really relate to the earlier play; for instance, at this Revue there were Brazilian numbers, a Mexican number, and elegant tux and gown dance showcases. I suppose it didn’t matter, and I was sad when the elaborate curtain call (large feathered costumes!) started.

I tried to get run over while getting a photo for Instagram of the outside of the theater (it was the only way to get the right angle!). I headed back to the hotel; some people from my group had arrived, and I celebrated my victory over Takarazuka ticket scalping by having a wonderful sushi dinner with them. Morale of my story? Don’t let lack of language skills stop you in a foreign country, and where there is a will there is a way. Oh, and when in Japan, definitely get tickets (in advance!) to go see the Takarazuka Revue. You will absolutely love it!

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