Alma Sato 2024

Plum Blossom

March - April 2024

Plum blossom (ume) sometimes also referred as Japanese apricot.

When I came to Japan, the cherry blossom and the plum blossom looked the same in my eyes. Although both plum blossom and cherry blossom have many varieties and color, the ones around my neighborhood is similar to cherry blossom, both having pink flowers. The plum blossom and cherry blossom can be seen blooming when Spring season comes.  

While walking with my husband, I pointed a tree with lots of pink flowers and said “Very beautiful cherry blossom”!  But my husband replied “They’re plum blossom”. Looking at them closely, they are indeed different from each other.

Plum blossom can endure the frost and snow. They bloom before the other flowers bloom in Spring. As such, it symbolizes the welcoming of Spring and good fortune. 

There are many places you can visit in Tokyo to view plum blossoms like: 

Koishikawa Korakuen (Korakuen Station, Marunouchi Subway Line)

           Yushima Tenjin Shrine (Yushima Station, Chiyoda Subway Line)

           Hanegi Park (Umegaoka Station, Odakyu Line)

Most of the Japanese people and also the tourists who come to visit Japan look forward to Spring to see the cherry blossoms.  Plum Blossoms don’t get that much attention.  

I think if you have the time, try to look at the Plum blossom, too. You may find the beauty and other appealing characteristics in them. 

Welcome and enjoy the Spring season in Japan with Plum blossom viewing!

Takarazuka  Revue 

(Japanese All-Female Musical Troupe)

January-February 2024

A week ago, I was lucky enough to be invited by one of my students to watch the Takarazuka Revue performance in Tokyo.  The cast was all female, and even the male roles were performed by females. But the staff and orchestra musicians are of mixed genders. Everyone was a great performer, but I was especially amused by the male role performances.

Takarazuka was formed in 1913 by Hankyu Railway Ichizou Kobayashi in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. He wanted to boost the ticket sales and draw more business to Takarazuka, so he decided to open an attraction for that purpose. The first performance was in 1914. After ten (10) years, it has become so popular that they were able to have their own theater called the Dai Gekijou (Grand Theater). Now, they also have the Takarazuka Theater in Tokyo, located opposite the Imperial Hotel.

The Takarazuka performers are called "Takarasiennes," which is derived from the word "Parisienne." The women who play female roles are called “musumeyaku” (girl roles), and those who play male roles are called “otokoyaku” (make roles). The storyline and costumes are usually of the western period. In the finale, the lead performers, who play both male and female roles, appear wearing feathered backpieces like a peacock.

Training to become a member of the troupe is quite difficult. Only 40 to 50 young women are accepted to train in music, dance, and acting for two (2) years at the Takarazuka Music School and are given seven-year contracts. After the first year of training, the faculty will divide them into otokoyaku and musumeyaku. The otokoyaku have to cut their hair short, act, and speak in the masculine form in the classroom.

There are five main troupes: Hana (Flower), Tsuki (Moon), Yuki (Snow), Hoshi (Star), Sora (Cosmos), and an emeritus troupe for senior performers who no longer belong to the regular troupe and perform occasionally. This time, I watched the Snow Troupe performance. I enjoyed it so much that if I have another opportunity, I would like to watch the other troupes’ performances as well.