When Michio Oji first took the stage of the Takarazuka Revue in 1939, other revue performers were some of the biggest names in the troupe's history, including Yumeji Tsukioka, Nobuko Otowa and Fubuki Koshiji.
"There were a lot of stars that year, so I was just nothing special," Oji said.
She soon would be over the next four decades. Today, at 94, Oji (real name: Michiko Kamiyama) will be among 100 former performers and staffers to be inducted into the Takarazuka Revue Hall of Fame, which opened in the Takarazuka Grand Theater in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on April 4.
The revue, which presents magical worlds to audiences in accordance with the troupe's motto--"modesty, fairness, grace"--marked its 100th year in business on April 1.
The theater company, founded in a hot spring resort, is one of the few in the world where only women take the stage. The troupe has more than 4,000 former members who have gone on to success on stage and in TV.
Of the 64 former performers going into the hall of fame, Oji is the oldest still living. The spirit she displayed in her performances shined from her time as a junior member. The senior performers often praised her.
She fascinated audiences with her subdued and deeply profound acting. Oji could play any role: male, female, a homeless person, a shogun. She is one of the most distinguished actresses in the troupe's history and during her stage career and gained the reputation as "meiwakiyaku," or an outstanding supporting actress. Even after leaving the revue in 1980, Oji continued to enjoy a successful career, with roles including a grandmother in the wildly popular NHK morning TV series "Oshin," which ran from 1983-84.
Even now Oji lives near the Takarazuka Grand Theater. She has become hard of hearing, but her shining facial expressions still make an impression. And she has not lost her sense of humor. Turning toward the camera, she said jokingly, "If only I had been born a prettier girl."
A ceremony will be held at the Takarazuka Grand Theater on April 5 to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Around 400 active members will rejoice in a huge chorus as former performers and other people associated with the troupe look on.
Oji will also join the ceremony.
"I don't need to go in a hakama (an official Takarasienne costume), do I?" she asked. She is still the meiwakiyaku.