CultureJapanese Magic Tezuma

These days, when I hear the word “magic” I immediately
think of death-defying stunts, mentalists and hypnotists,
or large-scale technical illusions. As a child this wasn’t
so, as I had grown up watching more simple, humble performances
where you can approach the magician and scrutinise their work, and
yet still be amazed. Indeed, in Britain’s town squares and promenades
you can still find people performing close-up magic as a means of
busking, but it is not something you would make a conscious effort
to go and see. In recent years the paying western audience seems to
have acquired a taste for more shocking and extravagant magic (or
magic you can be amazed by even through the television).

I was excited to re-live the experience of magic I had enjoyed as a child.

For that reason, when I was invited to watch a traditional Japanese
magic show, “Tezuma,” in an intimate performance space with only
few spectators and even fewer performers, I was not only interested to
go and learn something new about Japanese culture, I was excited to
re-live the experience of magic I had enjoyed as a child.

The performance space is a newly built Japanese-style room, upon which much care and attention has clearly been lavished.

In particular
the decoration, which is beautiful without being distracting,
and the lighting, which highlights the stage area without casting the
audience into gloom, was impressive. At first glance the room seemed
too small for the audience, but as long as you can bear to kneel on
the floor (or arrange your legs in a similar fashion) for an hour, it is
in fact the perfect size for the audience to feel like one large group of
friends who have attended together, and for everyone to sit in close
proximity to the stage.

During the show

During the show, the performance of magic itself was broken up
into segments, and between the segments were shamisen recitals,
short talks about the history of magic in Japan, and a tutorial for the
audience to learn simple magic tricks. Thanks to this structure the
audience members were never left bored or unattended, for instance
the shamisen player would perform while the magician prepared the
equipment for his next trick, and personally I never looked at my
watch once, a sure sign of a good show.
The talks on Japanese magic were not only fascinating; they were
also a chance for the audience to glimpse the true personality of the
magician, and come to understand and respect his choice to perform
this centuries-old art. As a result the atmosphere was warm and welcoming,
and everyone could leave feeling like a “participant” rather
than a mere “spectator.”

It was a pleasure to attend.

And as for the magic itself, it delivered exactly what one would want
from an intimate performance such as this: simple yet unfathomable
tricks, audience participation, cheesy jokes that were still funny, and a
gradual increase in pace and difficulty that created a crescendo of gasps
and applause from the audience and resulted in an extremely impressive
and satisfying conclusion to the show. Also, thanks to the visual nature
of the performance and the use of an interpreter and written materials,
it was something anyone could enjoy and feel a part of, regardless of
nationality or language ability.
It is clear that much effort has been dedicated to the audience here,
in particular the international audience. It can be seen from the contents
of the show, down to details such as the creation of the performance
space. It was a pleasure to attend.

Edo Tezuma:
Japanese traditional magic. The “dancing paper butterfly” is the
most famous part of the performance.

Nihombashi Kyorakutei:
A new event space furnished with tatami mats that opened in
Nihombashi COREDO Muromachi 3 in March 2014.

Inquiries:
Shinnichiya 03-5652-5403
• reservation@shinnichiya.com
• http://www.shinichiya.com

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