Tokyo home to close-up magic scene

February 23rd, 2009 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

While listening to Justin Robert Young, Joe Monti and Cashetta discuss how David Blaine would perform on a large stage (theoretically, of course) I came across this story about Tokyo’s magic scene, which focuses much more on close-up magic. Tokyo is filled with magic bars, where attendees are treated to close-up, street-style shows along with their drinks. From the story, by reporter Shaun Davies:

“Japan is now famous for table magic. In Japan, most magicians don’t have so many opportunities to perform on a big stage, so they focus on close-up magic instead,” (magician) Leo says. “Lots of different people come to magic bars, depending on the place. In Ginza, for instance, you see a lot of businessmen who’ve been out drinking, you see people who come from hostess bars. Sometimes they bring the hostesses with them.”

The popularity of Cyril Takayama and Dr. Leon is credited with the city’s interest in magical arts. The scene is reminiscent of Jeff McBride’s Wonderground, (which — from the best we can gather — is being held in a secret location. We imagine gaining access involves some sort of pass) without all the other cool stuff such as belly dancers and tarot readers. However, not everyone in Tokyo is thrilled with the bar-oriented approach:

These days (magic-shop owner) Ton Onosaka doesn’t spend time in magic bars, even though he knows roughly 80 percent of the magicians in Tokyo personally, and says he feels sad that children are generally excluded from the experience of live magic. “I’d like to see more daytime magic,” he said. “Everything in Tokyo happens in bars. I’d like to see more families coming to see these things.”


  1. New blog post: Close-up magic more accessible in Japan