Before having people read these translations, I wanted to talk a little bit about Rika's book Liberté. It is a collection of photographs from a photo shoot (about 30 pages in color), and then a collection of loosely organized short "essays" (about 150 pages) where Rika talks about moments in her life, things that made her who she is today, her hopes, her aspirations. There are sad moments, bitter moments, happy and silly moments. Overall, the tone struck me as uplifting. Even the painful moments led to a realization of one kind or another.

... Having said that, I read my English translations and they sound much more cynical than the original Japanese. Ah, well, this is why I'm not a professional translator being paid big bucks. ;) Just keep that in mind while reading them. I would also recommend the book to those who can read Japanese, even on a basic level. She uses some of the cleanest, most uncomplicated grammar I have ever seen, and the vocabulary is not terribly difficult either.

Her essays are divided into six sections: Prologue, The Base That Formed My Style (Bottom), The Road to My Manifestation (Takarazuka), Being Able to Build On- and Off-Stage Time (Private), Liberté -- Liberty Hard Fought For, and Epilogue. Throughout them she talks about things like her childhood, how she got her original fashion sense from her mother (it embarrassed her terribly when she was young), being bullied in junior high school, her love of fashion, first hearing about Takarazuka and taking the exams without any idea what she was getting into, how she became an otokoyaku, the terrors of TMS, the three serious injuries she got during her Takarazuka career and what they made her realize, the importance of the audience in Takarazuka, costuming, the Berlin tour, her love for London, being hit on by men in Italy, going to Hayama-sensei's house for support from her family, the kind of man she likes, the kind of man she tried to be on stage, life's lessons, news and the Hanshin Earthquake, her first post-Takarazuka show, her first experience in a TV drama, finding the motivation to beat all the hurdles, her satisfaction with her life so far, and why the hard lessons were so necessary to make her who she is today.

There is also a most adorable "stage history" in the back of the book, with off-beat comments on most of her major Takarazuka performances. Some of them you need to know the back-story to get, like her reference to her hatsubutai foul-up with the Star Troupe upperclassman.
* 1990 The Rose of Versailles = "My first still photo!! But, a female role!?"
* 1996 Who Is Bad / Passion Blue = "Hello, Hoshigumi-san!"
* 1997 ALAS = "Mami-chan, long time no see~!!"


Without Knowing Anything, I Volunteered to Be an Otokoyaku

Even now this is a funny story. Because I was a young 15-year-old at the time I graduated from junior high school and entered Takarazuka Music School, the moments of "Ah, I misunderstood!" piled up.

Pure, proper, beautiful...... Following that school motto, even minute details of regulations concerning the school uniforms were observed. Especially for the first year yokasei; even their everyday clothes had to be modest garments in greys and whites.

However, for "still a child" me, I could only comprehend the color regulations, and ended up with very contradictory everyday clothing.

They were white blouses and grey skirts, no doubt about that, but one day I wore a grey mini flare skirt with white lacey socks, and the upperclassmen spoke out in startlement.

"Oh no, that girl looks like some idol!"


"That's no good, you know -- that mini skirt and those floofy socks!"

When I saw their extra-ordinary anger, I understood for the first time that "I can't do that."

The white pajamas I wore in the dormitory also had lace, and were "Little House on the Prairie" style, and my classmates also took me to task for them. Again, there, I realized that I had become alone.... or so it seemed.

It was one culture shock after another of "I can't do that either~?" In addition to the fact that I hadn't been able to steel myself, I hadn't had any preparatory information either.

Of course, I also had no idea how otokoyaku and musumeyaku were decided. I thought that it was all done by theater members, who said "You, please be an otokoyaku", "You, please be a musumeyaku."

During the first exam, and when I repeated the exam for the second round, I had casual conversations with an acquaintance (who later became a classmate), and those conversations were all I had to rely upon.

"If you pass, you have to cut your hair."

That's what my friend said.

I cut my long hair. I didn't know that cutting your hair short "was giving a sign that you wish to be an otokoyaku."

The otokoyaku Shibuki Jun was born from the misunderstandings of those young days.

The "Battle" of the Girls

I'm not quite certain how I got through the two years in Takarazuka Music School.

I had no interest in anything other than dancing, so the classes in piano, voice lessons, acting, Japanese dance and the like racked my brains. Particularly, for me, piano class was like a nightmare. When I was a yokasei, I didn't attend more than three times or so.

For instance, I'd wrap a plaster around my finger, say I was hurt, and skip.

Just hearing the piano filled me with "terror". I began piano lessons when I was four. But my teacher at that time was really scary, and right after a piano was bought for me, I quit. Even my parents were angry at me then, and it became a deeply buried trauma in my heart.

The most problematic thing was that while I was in Takarazuka nothing excited my interest ever, other than dance. However, that didn't worry me. That was me, it couldn't be helped.... that's how I felt.

It was from about this time that I began to love the "only one", unique, style of living.

However, that way of living was naturally seen as a mistake for someone who had entered the school.

I didn't mean to say cheeky things, or to invite quarrels, but for some reason I became a target that caught everyone's eye.

I had done ballet, so I had the habit of throwing out my chest when I walked. Moreover, although I was only a first year I wore sunglasses like an adult, and my clothes were never subdued.

To make matters worse, the name "Shibuki Jun" seemed to act as an impetus to the upperclassmen.

"Murasaki o.... fuichau?* Isn't she conceited, that girl?"

[* A sentence using the characters in Rika's name, it means "blowing/emiting violets".]

Those kinds of gossip would go before me, and it wasn't only the upperclassmen. My classmates also treated me harshly.

Just like the abominable memories of when I entered junior high, the "incidents" at first had no tangible perpetrators. The most common had been to have things disappear, or to have my indoor slippers disappear.

The pattern of "incidents" that I had encountered in junior high school was different, but in Takarazuka I experienced the bullying again.

Something I'm still grateful for now are the people who supported me then; who gave me lunches and other things. I don't think the number of them amused my classmates.

"Why? She's so junior!" they'd say, and glare daggers at me.

"Why does Rika get provisions and I don't?"

Even though my classmates said such things, there was nothing I could do.

Among the 45 members of my class, I and eight others were a minority of "junior high graduates". Even having said so, when one of the junior high graduates had the best grades, did that lay the emotional groundwork between the other classmates to call her "the hated junior high graduate"? Before I knew it, the battle within my classmates was much harder to endure than a scolding from an upperclassman.

For example, they broke into factions of "high school graduate" VS "junior high graduate", "Kansai raised" VS "Kanto raised". And the battle opened full throttle during the Bunkasai of our yokasei year.

Another momentous event like the Bunkasai is the hatsubutai which is like a dream to everyone! The line dance! But I had had experience on stage before, having done ballet, and so the "beautiful hatsubutai" didn't move me.

The strict rehearsal for the line dance was not painful. Rather, it was fun. "The eggs that will hatch in the future begin here. Ah, I wonder what kind of girls there will be this year?"

The dignitaries of the company are also invited to this event, and with such hopes dancing in their breasts.... every student recognizes that. And that is why the battle breaks out.

Everyone becomes a different person, and enters into the "battle of the girls". Day by day, the atmosphere in the dorms also became more bloodthirsty.....

It was just what you would expect from girls whose immense motivation is "I'm going to enter Takarazuka". Everyone put forth all their powers, so that it was frightening to see in their eyes. No matter whom you looked at, they were tense.

It had a continual air of an explosive situation, and so people would get into quarrels over little things and they would soon expand into the groups of "Kanto" VS "Kansai". The dialects of the different groups of reinforcements would fly about.

Nominally, being from Gunma Prefecture I was "Kanto", but at the same time I was stressed and didn't belong to either. The fifteen-year-old me simply stood petrified, and cried.

"What are you doing spacing out at a time like this? I don't like you!"

"I can't believe you!"

I didn't hear those kinds of phrases from the upperclassmen; I heard them from my classmates..... In other words, the first slander was what came from the ones I was moving forward with, my "companions". It was a huge shock. My belief in people collapsed as I cried.

Was I really such a disgusting person that people would say "I don't like you" and "I don't believe you"? Thinking such things made me sad and hurt, and I didn't hesitate to cry aloud in public.

After I returned to my room in the dorms, I would continue to cry alone, and my eyes were horribly swollen, but I still couldn't stop the tears. Moreover, there was no one to whom I could speak frankly with about the depth of that sadness. I was never cheerful, and became thoroughly disillusioned with those living beings called people.

And there were times when I deeply understood the words "I can't believe you!" "I must have been born on the star for 'girls who are bullied'....." I thought.

It's not a funny story, but these are memories which I haven't been able to forget, even after all the years. Truthfully, I was a complete child. I was fastidious, and completely contradictory, and I didn't know the world.

Come to think of it, after I grew up a little more, there were also things which made me feel emotionally depressed. I thought, "If I'm reincarnated, I want to be Shepherd's Purse [an herb]. I hate people....."

Shepherd's Purse~?!...... Wait a minute, if I'm Shepherd's Purse I'll probably get trampled on by people, so something like a star in the sky, which people can't reach, might be better....

And yet, I surmounted those many painful "incidents", and it was a year later. It was the Takarazuka Music School graduation event, the Bunkasai. I would dance, and I had gotten one of the two lead roles. While I thought I was an otokoyaku, somehow I had gotten a female role with a long tutu and toe shoes.

I can't remember definitively how that came about, but I stood out in my short hair and sideburns, and yet I had a small flower stuck in my hair. And of course, the other lead had a small flower in her hair....! We both had a small flower, and we were cute, but made a mismatched, uneven (tall-small) combination, and yet no one raised voice to complain. I was completely ignorant of how important that Bunkasai was for me, and danced gleefully on the stage.

The Takarasienne Who Could Wander

Flower Troupe, Star Troupe, Moon Troupe, Senka, and Moon Troupe. I changed troupes countless times, and the fans somehow started calling me "the gypsy sienne!"

If I started calling myself that, it was partly in self derision, but the fans continued to support me without change no matter which troupe I was in. So I came to enjoy being the "gypsy sienne", and was brimming with vitality.

I think it was that power that saved me, and allowed me to do my job when I was shaky emotionally.

It's all the same Takarazuka, but the color of the troupes is completely different. That's mainly because the top star of every troupe is different, and the underclassmen are constantly watching the top star and growing.

The members of the Takarazuka Revue all have a similar "will" and way that they treat the creation of a stage production, no matter the troupe. However, the "top" individual is different, so that when the troupe becomes a whole naturally it takes on the tint of the top star.

There is a proverb, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". But to switch troupes and then change yourself to match the various colors is a very difficult thing.

Even for rehearsals, one troupe might be morning, and another night, each with a different individualism. The way they take meals, too -- some like eating in groups, some like to eat freely, everyone going their own way -- there are all kinds of colors.

But I didn't make matching myself to the troupe's color my priority.

Of course, I integrated myself with the mood of the various troupes. But it was then that I first realized something from the letters of fans. Their substance was things like "you're not very cheerful" or "you don't seem well".

This wasn't me. It wasn't like me.....

Of course I was endeavoring to do my job smoothly, but I couldn't fixate on whether I was matching the troupe's color or not as the most important thing.

The performance is a job. I had always defined it clearly as: My job is to be a "Takarazuka otokoyaku".

Perhaps in that attitude I was a little different from everyone else. I had seen countless upperclassmen top stars crying at the critical moment of former graduations.

"To me, Takarazuka was a world of dreams....."

Everyone said similar things as they cried, but to me Takarazuka was never a "world of dreams". It was a pragmatic job.

The "Joy" of an Assembled Audience

I was always thinking of what I could do to make things more and more enjoyable for the audience, and to encourage more to come. And I endeavored to make roles that would give the most joy to the audience.

For example, when I would tell the fans that, "I'll switch to different wigs from time to time", they would come many times happily anticipating the change in costume. These are the "laws" that I discovered and put into practice. As an underclassmen, I employed the "eye contact strategy".

That strategy was deciding that "I'm definitely going to make this audience member a fan". I would concentrate my gaze on them, believing that by the time the production was over they would have become my fan.

Those were the "endeavors" that I told myself I ought to do, and that by doing them I thought I was a kind of professional. I thought I should always privately attract as many people as I could, until I actually reached a position as a top star.

Thinking back on that, surely I owe everything to the fans. I can say that it is because of the fans supporting me and reviving me that I could graduate.

The stage is called a "living thing", but it is surely a question of whether there is an audience or not -- that is what affects our performance.

For example, when a theater with a capacity for 2500 people is completely full, there are 5000 eyes watching us!

Being watched by 5000 eyes, we can constantly feel the energy of the audience. Emitting energy from gratitude and tension -- I think that is the "nature" of stage actors.