Ask your average Japanese person or non-native Japanophile to name a "traditional" form of domestic theater and the classics such as kabuki and noh would feature prominently. Bunraku puppetry may even get the odd mention, particularly in its ancestral home of Osaka.

Few, however, would name the theater genre that fills more audience seats every year, day in and day out, than any other in the land.

That form of theater is Takarazuka — or Takarazuka Revue, to give the musical theater troupe its formal title. For most, this stage entertainment named after the provincial town in Hyogo Prefecture where it started, and is still based, is about little more than glitz and glamour, songs and dance, clouds of grand-finale ostrich feathers, women playing women — and women playing men. At least that's the popular stereotype.