How My Life in Japan Impacted My Magic
By Ben Daggers - Wednesday, August 16, 2023
I have spent more than half of my 40 (ouch) years living outside of my native England, and the majority of that time has been in Osaka, Japan. This has shaped so much of who I am today, from the tailoring of my clothes to my tastebuds. It has also, in many ways, influenced the way I create and perform magic—as seen in my new book The Elusive Illusive.
My transition from card-obsessed amateur to professional magician began a decade ago at Osaka’s legendary French Drop magic bar. Nobody does magic bars quite like Japan. There are hundreds of them sprinkled across the country, and while some of them lean more on the drinking and less on the magic, others are bona fide mini theaters.
French Drop was thankfully the latter, and it meant that, for years, I was able to perform two or three shows a night in formal conditions, to audiences civilized and Japanese enough to enjoy a proper show, but just drunk enough to call you out when you weren’t up to scratch. Almost all of the routines in The Elusive Illusive took their first tentative, bambi-like steps in front of such audiences.
The second turning point was meeting my magic partner-in-crime Ponta the Smith. You probably know Ponta from his coin work, magic so flowing that at times it appears he’s made of mercury instead of flesh and bone. But Ponta’s mind is as sharp as his hands are smooth, and the countless hours we’ve spent thinking, talking and fighting about magic have also had a huge influence on me as a performer. He’s never afraid to pick apart an idea, a move or a presentation, and most routines which have been given the Ponta treatment come out the other side much better for it. Unsurprisingly, the coin routines in the book have his grubby fingerprints all over them, as does much of the card work.
Ponta has cast a large coin-shaped shadow over the Japanese scene since the release of Sick in 2009, and thanks to him, technical coin magic is still the staple of most up-and-coming magicians in Japan. On the other hand, compared to the West, Japanese magic tends to focus less on premise, scripting and other theatrical elements; strengths of mine which have allowed my magic to stand out from the crowd.
Had I stayed in England, I likely wouldn’t have put in the technical work. Had I been born in Japan I likely wouldn’t have had the inclination or confidence to look for new presentational angles. In either case, there is little chance that my work would have found its way onto the printed page. For that, I owe a huge thank you to my adopted home. Arigatou!
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