Women as Men, Men as Women : Cross-dressing in Japanese Theatre
|Year of publication
|Article in Periodical
|Magazine / Source
|MU Faculty or unit
|cross-dressing; onnagata; otokoyaku; Japanese Theatre; kabuki; Takarazuka; actresses
|Cross-dressing in Japanese theatre is usually associated with the traditional kabuki theatre and its impersonators of female roles, the onnagata or oyama. At some historical period, women were played by men in many western countries. However, in Japan, women were introduced (or reintroduced) to the stage at the turn of the 20th century and the onnagata tradition was firmly rooted to the extent that there was a wide debate about the legitimacy of actresses. However, actresses gradually replaced female impersonators and the tradition became perceived as an element of “traditional theatre”. This still being a new phenomenon, Takarazuka revue was founded and new cross-dressing tradition was born. In this paper, I would like to explore the development of cross-dressing on stage and representation of the opposite or different gender in modern Japanese theatre. I shall describe the development during the Meiji era and then present modern examples of cross-gender actors. In this paper, I shall examine male impersonators of Takarazuka revue and their construction of male gender and subsequently introduce individuals performing as the onnagata in the framework of the modern and contemporary theatre.