How To Buy Takarazuka Goods
Welcome to A Whole New World of Financial Pain
Originally by princesslucia, updated by Carly (Nov. 2015)
If you're coming fresh into Takarazuka fandom, you may have noticed that at first glance it doesn't seem as immediately accessible as you may be accustomed to (especially if you're coming from another fandom). Between the cost of merchandise and the relatively small overseas fan base, it can be overwhelming to contemplate starting your Takarazuka collection.
Fortunately, compared to a few years ago, buying Takarazuka goods overseas has gotten a lot easier; the days of needing to be in Japan, needing a trusted contact in Japan, or being tied to a shopping service to get your hands on merch are pretty much over. There are still some tips and tricks you may find helpful, especially if you’re hunting for out of print or otherwise hard to come by items.
(A list of online Takarazuka stores can be found on the TakaWiki Links Page.)
Finding What You Want
Many of the sites suggested later in this guide allow you to search in English, but even nowadays your options are much broader if you can manage a search in Japanese. If you don’t read or speak Japanese, you can copy and paste the name of an actress, show, etc. into a search engine or shopping website. Nearly all the Japanese you need is available right here in the wiki!
- 轟 悠 = Todoroki Yuu
- 明日海 りお = Asumi Rio
- 珠城 りょう = Tamaki Ryou
- 望海 風斗 = Nozomi Fuuto
- 紅 ゆずる = Kurenai Yuzuru
- 真風 涼帆 = Makaze Suzuho
- More on TakaWiki's actress charts.
Types of Shows
- 宝塚大劇場公演 = Takarazuka Daigekijou Koen (a play performed in the Takarazuka Grand Theatre; most shows fall into this category)
- 新人公演 = shinjin koen (performed by actresses who have been in Takarazuka less than seven years)
- ディナーショー = dinner show (a small-scale hour-long concert showcasing a particular Takarasienne)
TakaWiki's performance charts can give you show titles. When you’re browsing a Japanese website and don’t know what DVD/video you’re looking at, if you can reference above and read the troupe name, stars' names, and the date, you should be able to narrow down its identity to a couple of possibilities.
And if you still don't know what you're looking at, reverse-engineer it at J-Talk. This is the best of a bad lot of automatic translators, and although you mustn't take its outpourings as gospel, it can be very useful for giving you at least a partial translation from kanji to romanji. Alternatively, Rikaichan (Firefox) and Rikaikun (Chrome) are great browser extensions that read/define kanji with a hover.
Now, for actually getting the stuff…
My Favorite From Things Japan is a small friendly shopping service and savior to many a zuka fan. As of this update the website is stamped July 2013, but the service is alive and well. You DO NOT need to restrict yourself to items listed in The Shop; you can use the order form to email a request in English for literally anything. Send your ready-to-go shopping list from Quatre Reves, etc. (more details below), or ask a question if you’re not sure about something.
The Easy Way Out
She’ll purchase readily available merchandise (and theater tickets!) for you, and even watch auctions/keep a general lookout for hard-to-get items. You won’t be charged until it’s certain your item is available. She ships overseas and accepts PayPal. You’ll pay up to a 20% service fee for your stuff, but you could literally not do less work for it. Sometimes it takes a little while to get a reply to your email, but in my experience this is a totally reliable resource.
Rakuten (ships overseas)
Rakuten - Global Market is a portal like Amazon in which various merchants can sell their goods, and after the initial ordering of your merchandise, all queries related to the order should be directly sent to the merchant. Takarazuka-An, which carries just about everything, sells through Rakuten. Upon checkout, you will not be charged immediately; this will occur later after Takarazuka-An (or your chosen merchant) sends you a separate email confirming your shipping address, shipping fees, and total cost of the order. The nice thing about Rakuten is they ship to many countries outside Japan, and while it may be more expensive than domestic shipping it saves you shopping service fees.
After you confirm your order on the website, you will receive an automated email from Rakuten (in English) and then a (presumably) automated email reply from Takarazuka-An (in Japanese) a few days later. (If you don’t get a reply within a few days, you can email them in simple English. They may take several days to answer your query, so don't panic just yet if you don't get an answer immediately!)
Although Rakuten Global is in English, if you’re looking for something specific, you may have better luck pasting the Japanese title into the search bar.
CDJapan (ships overseas)
CDJapan, long-time favorite exporter of anime and J-music goods, has recently begun carrying new Takarazuka releases. They also allow you to browse in English and ship to many countries. The selection is not nearly the size of Takarazuka-An’s, but if you’re looking for a recent release, or want to preorder an upcoming DVD, blu-ray, book, or calendar, they’re a very easy option. Japanese searching may be helpful here too, as sometimes names/titles are romanized in unexpected ways.
Amazon.co.jp also has a lot of Takarazuka merchandise. Occasionally you'll find a seller who ships overseas, but you can also use a shopping service to help with ones who don't.
The official Takarazuka goods store is Quatre Reves. It has branches in both main theaters and a few other locations around Japan, as well as online, and it sells everything you've ever wanted with your star's name or logo on it. Pens, scarves, key rings, little things like that — and photographs, postcards, notecards, notepads, clear files, mousepads, etc. for each new show. They don't keep merchandise around for very long though, so if a show you love is playing now, now is the time to buy.
As of Nov 2015, the left sidebar starts with 3 buttons:
- New goods
- Soon-to-be-released goods
- Most frequently viewed goods
Below that you have your 6 troupe icons (conveniently color coded) for troupe-specific goods, and below that you have top star buttons (color coded and accompanied by head shots).
Below that are 5 more buttons:
- Postcards (by star, at the top, and by show further down)
- Stage Photographs/bromides (by show)
- the 5-troupe Design Collection
- Collaboration goods
If you see a red bar across the little picture of something, that means it's out of stock. The text ※ネット販売いたしません indicates that something is available in the physical shops, but not over the internet.
TCA Pictures Shop sells DVDs, blu-rays, and CDs.
There is a slideshow of recent big releases, and if you scroll down you’ll find them in list format, followed by an upcoming release calendar (you can copy and paste into the wiki if you need help identifying titles).
At both the top and bottom of the page, there is a long red button with a picture of a shopping cart that says “TCA Online Shop This Way.” This will take you to the more extensive catalog and search function… or you could click directly here.
On the left, you'll find a series of drop-down menus and a text box underneath. This is for searching. You can copy and paste the kanji name of someone you're looking for, or leave the box blank, and narrow your search in the following ways:
- By type of merchandise
- By troupe
- By year
- By category of show (shinjin koen, TCA special, etc.)
- By limiting the results for whatever you type in the box below to titles, actresses, venues, or song names.
In this way it's relatively easy to get, say, all Flower Troupe shows from 2002, or all Moon Troupe shinjin koen, or all shows in which your favourite Senka member performed with Star Troupe.
You can also browse by the troupe icons below the search.
Every official in-print publication concerning the Takarazuka Revue is available through the publisher, Hankyu Books. These fall broadly into three categories.
- 宝塚GRAPH: Takarazuka Graph, which prior to 1998 was spelled in katakana (宝塚グラフ). This is a largeish-format magazine, full of big glossy pictures of Takarasiennes. A typical issue will contain stage photographs for two or more current productions, rehearsal photographs for a show that may not yet have begun playing, lavishly-illustrated interviews and conversations between 'siennes, and, since 1998, several portraits of the covergirl(s) taken by prominent photographer Kishin Shinoyama. You can browse back issues here.
- 歌劇: Kageki. A smaller magazine, about the same size as a paperback book and the thickness of Vogue in January. Two-thirds of it tend to be devoted to articles, which makes it much less valuable to those of us who can only look at the pictures. However, the full-page portraits in the front are always nice, especially in January, when they print pictures of all the important 'siennes. Be aware that the covergirl often appears nowhere else in the magazine. Browse back issues here.
- Le Cinq (or ル・サンク). This is slightly thinner than a Graph, but with larger pages, and is devoted exclusively to stage photographs of a particular production. There is a Le Cinq for every Grand Theatre show, and for many Theatre Drama City shows etc. that feature prominent actresses. Every so often you'll see one with Bow Hall or shinjin koen pictures in the back, or the full Japanese script of the play in question. Browse back issues here.
- Foursome was Le Cinq's predecessor, in the days in which there were only four troupes. It had roughly the same number of pages as Le Cinq, but printed on thinner paper, and they were enormous. Foursomes are thus tricky to ship, but extremely desirable. They are all out of print.
The newest, shiniest programmes always have their pictures on this page. At the top there are buttons leading to pages on which the programmes are sorted by descending date (most recent first), troupe, year, and by venue. The venues are, from left to right:
- Takarazuka Grand Theatre. These programmes contain lovely big portraits of the stars, and smaller ones of everyone else in the troupe, rehearsal photographs, plus a lot of Japanese information and two precious pages of English.
- Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre. The same as the Takarazuka ones, but with stage photographs instead of rehearsal pictures. Occasionally the cast will change slightly between Takarazuka and Tokyo, so emphasis may be placed on different actresses.
- Bow Hall. Smaller, full of photos but little info.
Other theaters vary from almost as fun-filled as Grand Theatre programmes, to others (more like 600 yen) that were little more than Bow Hall programmes. However, they usually all at least contain full-page colour portraits of the stars:
- Umeda Arts Theater
- Tokyo Special Performances
- National Tours
- Theater Drama City
- Shinjin Koen programmes are not available for sale online but can be purchased secondhand.
Otherwise known as mooks (magazine books). It's impossible to resist them for very long, filled as they are with gorgeous pictures of everyone worth looking at. The ones you are most likely to come across (and to want) are:
- Personal Books. These are released in series every few years. Each glorifies a particular second- or third-ranked otokoyaku over the course of fifty pages of photographs. Although the focus is on off-stage portraits, there are also stage photographs, scrapbook pictures of the 'sienne in question as a child and a young woman, interviews/conversations with older or contemporary ‘siennes, and vital statistics.
- Guide Books. Here you'll find the Rising Star Guides, which focus on rising 'siennes, and the annual revue mooks, which focus on everyone. Besides pictures, these latter volumes also contain short interviews, a few stage pictures, and special features like Takarazuka history, etc.
- In the same section you'll see troupe-specific books called The Takarazuka (ザ・タカラヅカ). If you have a favourite troupe (and chances are if you don't now you'll end up with one eventually), you need their The Takarazuka book so much I'm finding it hard to put into words. There aren't enough superlatives to describe how much fun they are for the serious fans of a particular troupe. Stage pictures, star pictures, rehearsal pictures, shinjin koen pictures, backstage pictures, conversations, personal messages... it would be easier to list what isn't in these books: their phone numbers. Everything else is here, including birthdays, hometowns, and blood types. There are several series now; the most recent series remains in print, but the earlier ones are now only available secondhand.
- Takarazuka Otome (宝塚おとめ) is the annual directory of all currently active members of the Takarazuka Revue, sorted by troupe, with full-page portraits of the top stars at the end. Their names are also given in romanji, which is why this book is so good to have at one's elbow for identifying gorgeous otokoyaku one can't remember seeing before.
- Portrait collections, most of which focus on a single star. They're fairly self-explanatory. The Kishin books contain all Kishin Shinoyama's photograph for Graph magazine over a particular period.
Other pretty self-explanatory sections:
Takarazuka-an carries everything. In addition to their Rakuten shop, it seems they've recently added an English order form to their own homepage as well and ship overseas.
HMV was recommended to me mostly for Takarazuka CDs and the rare OG production that gets a DVD release, because they sometimes (gasp) go on sale. They ship overseas.
If you don't like having CD cases lying around, iTunes Japan also gets Takarazuka music releases (albeit SIGNIFICANTLY later than the actual CD release). You need a Japanese iTunes account to purchase, but you can sneakily get one without a Japanese credit card. Here is info on how to change the region of your iTunes store, and here you can read how to create a Japanese account with a gift card instead of a credit card (you can buy the scratch code online if you don't have a friend in Japan who can get one for you. The markup is annoying but less than shipping a CD overseas).
I personally think My Favorite Things From Japan is the easiest and most reasonable option, but if you’re more comfortable with a bigger/more automated site, or you shop a lot and just don’t want that feeling of bothering someone with email requests, there are a handful of good traditional shopping services.
Several are listed here, but the ones I’ve had the best and most recent experiences with are Noppin and From Japan. Both have usage instructions in English, and finding what you want to buy is just a matter of copying and pasting names and titles into search boxes.
You're probably already aware that very few Takarazuka items show up on eBay, and that when they do they're not exactly cheap. However, the main Japanese auction site, Yahoo! Japan, is a positive treasure trove of inexpensive Takarazuka merchandise, and may be your only option for out of print stuff that Takarazuka-An doesn’t have.
Unless you have a Japanese shipping address, and can read Japanese (in which case, what are you doing reading this?), you can't create your own Y!J account. While My Favorite Things Japan may be an option here, it can be nerve wracking and impractical to relinquish control of auction-watching to someone else. This is where the traditional Japanese shopping services listed above come in really handy.
Yes, It Really Does Cost This Much
I expect some of the numbers you've been seeing on the sites listed above have had you scratching your head, or perhaps recoiling in horror. Congratulations on acquiring the most expensive hobby in the world that doesn't involve a yacht.
Yes, it really does cost this much. No, you're never going to see Zuka on significant sale (unless you’re interested in Taka-An’s annual year-end 50% off VHS blowout). Yes, 6,300 yen is cheap for a DVD — they are more usually 8,400 or 10,500 or even more if it’s out of print. All I can say to make you feel better is that they really are worth it. They're not like other DVDs. You'll watch over and over, day in and day out, gazing in slack-jawed wonderment at the beauty before you.
Addendum on Magazines
If you have a local Japanese bookshop, such as Kinokuniya, they will be able to order in subscriptions to Graph, Kageki, and Le Cinq, in all likelihood less expensively than if you ordered them from Japan yourself via Noppin.
For those without this convenience, CD Japan offers a fairly reliable airmail service.