Magic Of Tenkai - Richard Kaufman

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Postby Joe Mckay » 09/05/12 10:54 AM

Hey Richard,

Just curious as to why you decided to write a book on the magic of Tenkai? I don't know much about him apart from his palm and the ingenious Tenkai Turnover. And the Tenkai Pinch coin sleight.

So - does he have alot of other interesting ideas that hasn't seen print? Or do you feel the rest of his work (which I am not familiar with) deserves to be written up properly, and presented in the correct manner, so as to do justice to an important creator?

I am guessing you consider him one of the most important creators in magic. But I never hear him discussed much.

So - I am curious as to what made you decide to put together the book?

Sorry for such a rambling question!

Joe
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/05/12 11:42 AM

Tenkai was the Dai Vernon of Japan. That's the reason.
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Postby Pete Biro » 09/05/12 12:13 PM

and a clever performer.
Stay tooned.
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Postby Ted M » 09/05/12 01:33 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Tenkai was the Dai Vernon of Japan. That's the reason.

To help us understand and appreciate that, will the book spend some significant time establishing and exploring the overall context of magic in Japan within which Tenkai emerged and developed, and then how he helped shape that landscape? Context is everything...

Have there been any books, or articles in Genii which provide a historical, contextual survey of magic in Japan over the last century or so?
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Postby Ian Kendall » 09/05/12 03:10 PM

I think there was an issue dedicated to Japanese magic in the first or second year of the new age.

Wasn't Takagi also called the Vernon of Japan?
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 09/05/12 04:05 PM

I also thought it was Takagi who was "the Dai Vernon of Japan".

For Tenkai there is "Six Tricks by Tenkai" by Robert Parrish.
http://magicref.tripod.com/booksjr/parr ... tenkai.htm

Also a hardback "The Magic of Tenkai" from the 70s, which is hard to get now. I believe there is also a DVD on Tenkai.

Gibecire magazine has been running some excellent articles by Mitsunobu Matsuyama on the history of Japanese magic.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/05/12 05:11 PM

There is no DVD on Tenkai that I'm aware of.

The problem with the existing material on Tenkai is the lack of detail in the descriptions. While some have called Shigeo Takagi the Vernon of Japan, that's a misnomer. Only Tenkai should be compared to Vernon. You'll understand when you read the book.
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 09/05/12 05:32 PM

Tenkai DVD:
http://themagicwarehouse.com/DA4523/Mag ... enkai.html
Also on Amazon and elsewhere.

Looking forward to the book though.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/05/12 06:38 PM

I don't know anything about that DVD and from reading the description, I wouldn't buy it.
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Postby Max Maven » 09/05/12 07:53 PM

"Japanese Magic: An Overview" appeared in the July 1994 Genii.

The so-called Tenkai DVD on that link appears to be an American magician (I don't think I've ever heard of him) performing and explaining some of Tenkai's effects that were published in various English-language magazines and books.

Tenkai was one of the great 20th century masters, whose work and career straddled some periods of major cultural shift. The amount that has been published about him in English is very minor -- and even the amount in Japanese is far less than what's warranted.

To me, neither Tenkai nor Takagi would be correctly defined as "the Dai Vernon of Japan." I think that Vernon's place in magic was unique.

Tenkai was an important creator, and a conjuring philosopher. He was also a superb performer. (I base the latter statement on what I have discussed with others; I never met Tenkai or saw him perform, other than viewing some muddy videos that provide a glimpse into his high level of artistry.)

Takagi was no slouch as a creator, but his greater importance was that he introduced so much information into the world of Japanese magic prior to the 1970s -- i.e., at a time when very little outside information was available in that country. Takagi's own sleight of hand skill was formidable, and his taste was refined. That combination helped guide more than one generation.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/05/12 08:01 PM

So, Takagi served a function similar to Vernon in that both were conduits for information from past (or those from another culture) masters.

But having seen Tenkai's notebooks and been lucky to have been taught quite a few of his more advanced routines in extreme detail (none of which have ever been published in English), I would still say that Tenkai is the Vernon of Japan.

One of the big differences between them is that Tenkai was a professional magician for his entire life, who performed a lot of magic on television over a period of many years. Like Vernon, he was a superb sleight of hand artist who made subtle yet incredibly important changes to the details of any sleight or trick he did.
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Postby Ted M » 09/06/12 12:20 AM

Thanks Max for the 1994 Genii article reference. It's a fascinating read. A teaser to send others to read it via AskAlexander.com:

"In all, between the end of the 17th century and the start of the 20th, there were some four hundred magic books produced in Japan.[!!! -TM] With the advent of the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century, when the country was opened up to the west after centuries of deliberate isolation, western conjuring techniques and styles began to exert a strong influence on Japanese magicians and their literature.

"In the books of the latter part of the 19th century one begins to see illustrations of performers wearing top hats. The magic of Japan would never be the same."


I had to chuckle at this sentence written 18 years ago in the concluding box of references to further reading material: "Richard Kaufman is currently working on a book of Tenkai material, much of it previously unpublished."

Ah, books in our field are clearly not quick and easy to produce!

Another sentence of interest: "[T]his article would not have been possible without the extraordinary scholarship of the late Keiichi Yamamoto, whose advice and friendship are sorely missed. One year before his passing in 1993, arrangements were made with Stephen Minch to produce a major volume of his translated historical writings. Until then, this brief overview will have to suffice."

Is there still any chance this volume might see the light of day?
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Postby Max Maven » 09/06/12 02:29 AM

Ted M wrote:Is there still any chance this volume might see the light of day?


Yamamoto's writings are good, but the parameters are narrow. So, I have been expanding on that foundation, slowly but surely.

It's one of those projects where the more I learn, the farther off I am from being ready to write it. (Sound familiar, Moo?) Meanwhile, my research continues, and there is a preliminary work that may see print before too long.
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Postby Denis Behr » 09/06/12 04:06 AM

As mentioned, concerning the history of magic in Japan, there is an ongoing series titled "An Investigation into Magic in Japan" by Mitsunobu Matsuyama in Gibecire. If you do a browser keyword search for "japan" here, you get some abstracts: http://conjuringarts.org/category/gibeciere/
It's a LOT of material, often richly illustrated. It is worth checking out.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/06/12 02:14 PM

I sympathize with Max's enormous task in reworking the orignal Japanese text for this history of magic in Japan into something more suitable for the US market. I've been through it many times, most recently with Theodore DeLand--it's like falling down a black hole.

But I really want to read the book!!!
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Postby Steve Cohen » 09/06/12 02:40 PM

In 1993, Stephen Minch hired me to translate Yamamoto's texts from Japanese into English (his Tenkai prize book, and another one or two manuscripts.) It was my first translation project out of college and I did my very best, at the time.

Within his books, there were numerous trick titles that remained unexplained, so I spent a good deal of time in 1994 with Ton Onosaka to attempt to fill in the gaps.

I'm afraid that the longer we take, the fewer elder statesmen will be left to confirm facts and assist in projects like this one.

Max, let me know if I can be of any assistance.
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Postby Ted M » 09/06/12 03:16 PM

Wow, exciting stuff. Lots of pointers toward existing and future reading material!

"Bar Hopping in Japan" (Genii, Oct 2007, pp 62-95) is a huge article + Magicana combo that paints a cultural picture as well.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 09/06/12 04:58 PM

If you are trawling for Japanese routines, there were a few scattered through the Looking Glass as well.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 09/06/12 07:08 PM

I am addicted to the crazy/weird ideas of Hiro Sakai, Kuniyasu Fujiwara and Ken Kuroki.

I know you have published alot of work by these guys in your magazines and books. And I hope you continue to do so!

I can only imagine they have a ton of interesting effects that have yet to be published in English.

Joe
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Postby Curtis Kam » 09/06/12 08:42 PM

Speaking of unpublished Tenkai material, you may know that Tenkai was a "guest" of the US government during WWII, and he was interned in Hawaii. Local magicians Bill Murata and Jimmy Yoshida visited with him frequently, and Jimmy kept a notebook of the tricks Tenkai taught them.

That notebook is in the hands of Jimmy's granddaughter, magician/airealist Kristi Toguchi, and it would be a shame if this material didn't at least get considered for this book, IMHO.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/06/12 08:45 PM

I've been looking for the notebook, Curtis. Can you email me privately @ moobooks@verizon.net.
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