Death of Takarazuka Performer: Dishonest Handling of the Situation Made Matters Worse

Behind the death of a revue company member, there were many cases of workplace bullying by senior members of junior members. The old institutional features of the company should be changed so that the tragedy will never be repeated.

Regarding the death last year of a 25-year-old woman who was a part of the Takarazuka Revue Company’s Cosmos Troupe, the company admitted that 14 incidents of workplace harassment by senior members and others had occurred and apologized to the bereaved family. The company said the incidents included the woman being burned with a hair iron and insulted with comments that attacked her character.

Police believe the woman committed suicide. At a press conference, Yasuo Shimada, president of Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Hankyu Corp., which operates the revue company, apologized, saying, “The negligence of the company’s management team has caused this situation.”

The Takarazuka Revue has a 110-year history and is supported by a multitude of fans, many of whom must be heartbroken by the insidious acts that are the opposite of its glamorous stage performances.

Last November, the revue company announced the results of an investigation that was conducted by a team of lawyers. Although the company admitted that the workload of the woman was excessive, it denied workplace bullying, saying, “We cannot say that it was inappropriate in terms of societal standards.”

This time, the company completely reversed its stance and fully admitted workplace bullying took place because it “accepted the wishes of the bereaved family and carefully examined the facts.” But if that is the case, what was the point of last year’s report?

The investigation was carried out by a law firm that has ties with Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, and the objectivity of the investigation was questioned by the bereaved family. One cannot help but think that if a neutral and fair third-party had properly investigated the situation from the beginning, the response would not have gone so far astray.

One can only imagine the pain and anguish of the bereaved family, who suddenly lost their relative and were forced to deal with the revue company side’s dishonest handling of the situation.

The revue company had entrusted senior members to run the troupes regarding rehearsals and costume preparation for performances. Traditionally, the relationship between senior members and junior members is strict, and junior members were often forced to work late into the night.

Hankyu Corp. and Hankyu Hanshin Holdings should have been responsible for the management and operation of the company, but they left this situation unchecked and left the revue company to deal with the issue even after it was discovered. It can be said that this type of irresponsibility had become the norm.

The deceased woman concluded an outsourcing contract with the revue company and was a freelance performer who could have worked any way she chose. Despite this, she was forced to deal with such issues as rehearsing for long hours. The contracts between Takarazuka and company members also need to be reviewed.

Hankyu Corp. said it will establish a new group of external experts to offer advice on managing the revue company’s operation. It is vital that the revue company launches drastic reforms tantamount to dissolving the company in order to regain trust.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2024)