Fully Booked | New Magic of Japan
By Harapan Ong - Sunday, June 9, 2019
Although in recent times, there has been a large wave of excellent magicians coming from South Korea and China, I think it is safe to say that Japan can be considered as the undisputed veteran of modern magic in the entire region. Whether it was the prominence of legends like Tenkai and Shigeo Takagi that helped connect the East and West in magic, or the history of unique entities like Tenyo Magic in the region, it is safe to say that Japanese magic has and always has been looked upon favourably by the world.
A big part of it is of course chalked up to the sheer novelty and creativity of magic coming from that region, probably because of cultural differences, as well as having a different historical background to the development of magic in Japan.
Personally, I find that studying and comparing magic that comes from different countries is absolutely fascinating. The different styles, ideas and presentations that each region seems to be more interested in is very intriguing indeed.
The book we are focusing on is an excellent look at Japanese magic in the 80s, back when Japan was this roaring economy everyone was focused on, primed to take over the world. In the magic community, many Japanese magicians were emerging that would soon become household names (at least for magician households!).
The origins of this book, New Magic of Japan 1988, is actually a Japanese publication by legendary magician Hiroyuki Sakai, who (along with Ton Onosaka, another legend) compiled the magic of the young rising talents of Japan back in the 80s. The Japanese book was titled New Generation Magic Plus Alpha. Richard Kaufman and Phil Goldstein (whom we now affectionately know as Max Maven) took the opportunity to publish an American version of it, which resulted in the book we are reviewing today.
As mentioned, the book compiles tricks from 25 Japanese magicians, each magician providing a trick from their repertoire. Big names like Shigeo Takagi, Tomohiro Maeda, Masao Atsukawa, Kuniyasu Fujiwara and Dr. Sawa all have their excellent contributions in here. The genres of tricks is pretty wide, covering both close-up magic and stage magic. There is even a card flourish in here, designed to be used in a stage manipulation act - Naoki Ogi’s “The Three-Sixty Fan” allows you to fan a deck of cards into a full circle using only one hand. I am sure the cardists of today will have a field day with this move.
Some of the tricks that I wish to highlight are:
Triangle Circle Square by Shinichi Arai: A great, simple and fooling effect with blank business cards. Three shapes - a triangle, a circle and a square are each drawn on three separate blank cards. A shape is chosen (e.g. the circle) and later, when the cards are turned over, all three cards now show a circle on it.
Double Shock by Yuic-hi Katakura: Four indifferent cards are magically changed into four Kings, which then immediately change into the four Aces. Packs a real punch and, true to its name, is a real shocker.
Card Quake by Kuniyasu Fujiwara: This trick embodies everything that I love about Japanese magic. It is probably the weirdest, quirkiest and most novel way of performing the classic Rising Card effect I have ever seen. It is hard to describe in words - just watch the performance of it.
Of course, as expected, I have chosen to highlight a small selection of the close-up items. As mentioned previously, there are other items here more suited for stage or a manipulation routine, like Asako Suda’s Cane From Fireball or Jonny Hirose’s Triple Production Box, where an empty transparent box produces a bunch of flowers a total of three times.
Richard Kaufman has published other books on Japanese magic since then - for example, 5 Times 5 Japan and Japan Ingenious are both great books on magic from more contemporary Japanese magic. However, if you want to have a look at what Japanese magic was like in its heyday, look no further than New Magic of Japan 1988.
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