Magic of Japan Week 2014 at The Magic Castle came and went and it was totally rad. And not just because I got to hang out with two kick-ass magicians from Japan and take some pictures inside a camera-free club. No, it was awesome because it was the same as it always is: a claustrophobic, creepy, and uncool members-only spot where you can see close-up, irony-free tricks and illusions performed by magicians for magicians. You need to know one to gain entry to the enigmatic mansion at the base of the Hollywood Hills. This time, the talent just happened to be from Japan.
This was the fourth annual Magic of Japan Week curated by Shoot Ogawa, who moved from Tokyo to Los Angeles to advance his magic career (and perfect his craft at the Magic Castle with other members of the Academy of Magical Arts). Before the doors opened for the evening, Shoot told me that he was too busy organizing and overseeing the event to participate himself, and his job is to be there if anything goes wrong. I also met Aki Mitsui, another Japanese transplant who moved to the neighborhood to be near the club, just became old enough to play 21+ evening shows. He’s been embraced by the staff as a family member and, if it seemed that he performed card tricks, coin tricks, and cups-and-balls tricks (but with a martini shaker) as if he were in his own living room, well, he practically was.
When the magicians left to get ready for the evening’s shows, I walked around the still-empty venue and snapped some photos of empty rooms hoping to spot some ectoplasm or maybe Houdini’s ghost later on. No such luck, but that evening I did witness top-shelf magicians from Japan that I may never get to see again. Yokohama magic bar proprietor Motti performed a cool variation of mentalism card tricks using Rubik’s Cubes and Masataka Jimbo was able to prestidigitate cards out of nowhere with the speed and spray of an assault rife. Meanwhile, the big stage emcee Toritto provided glimpses of magic sandwiched between generous slabs of self-deprecating humor to keep audiences from ODing on tricks. Impossible not to love HAMAchan’s game show style or Wakaba’s torn-and-restored card bit done with a Marilyn Monroe/Wakaba poster, too!
Shoot Ogawa’s Magic of Japan Week only happens once a year, so we non-members have a full year to figure out how to get invited by a magician next time around. Looking forward to seeing you there!