Ichizo Kobayashi (1873-1957) was the founder of the West Japan Hankyu train line and department store in Osaka's central Umeda district. Arguably his most significant artistic contribution was the establishment of the Takarazuka Music School in 1913, which combined a modern education with the training of young girls in stage performance embodied by the Takarazuka motto of "modesty, fairness and grace."

As the train terminal for rail lines from Osaka's Umeda, Takarazuka is a hot-spring resort. To commercialize the railway, Kobayashi established an all-girl troupe based upon his vision of modernizing Japanese music and performance that followed a Westernizing trend. The aim was to draw in the Osaka middle classes, and for its first decade of operation most of the audience were single males. By the late 1920s, however, its romance-inspired performances became a draw for teenage girls and couples. Today, the audience is largely female.

The Takarazuka revue aimed to establish a hybrid musical genre that aspired to Western tastes as a sign of Japan's burgeoning modernity, while also attracting audiences with formats that were readily understandable without the need for the rarified knowledge that traditional theater, such as noh, required. Using the flashy elements of kabuki costume and boisterous movements, Takarazuka performances brought into rapprochement Western opera, musicals, ballet, contemporary Japanese theater, burlesque, Broadway and can-can dancing.