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Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 10:42 am
by Joji Matsuo
While it may not be accessible to most English-speaking magicians, The New Hakone Close-up Magic Festival celebrated its 32nd year over the Easter weekend.

This year's guests were Harrot Yu (Taiwan), Jared Kopf, Max Maven, and Eugene Burger.

This two-day convention is sponsored in whole by Tokyo's MagicLand, the "place to visit" for close-up enthusiasts and magicians of all genres of the art.

The convention starts with a dealer show by Japan's most creative dealers pitching their latest offerings. My good friend from 35 years ago, Kuniyasu Fujiwara, presented some of his latest paper craft magic, and had more of the ingenious gadgets on display at his table in the dealer's room, including the once rarely available "Fujiwara gimmick."

Next up was the _hitoneta_ contest, which translates loosely to the "one-trick" contest. The idea is to present a single pet effect. Many of us, myself included, presented full-blown routines thereby disqualifying ourselves from those who understand the rules. A ballot vote by the audience determines the winner The winner's prize is a chance to grab, with both hands and arms, all the Bicycle decks they can. This year's winner was a four-year lady magician who did an uncanny mind-reading effect with two matchbooks. Much to her surprise, she learned from the creator himself that it was developed by Tomo Yuki, that genius who is, IMHO, grossly under published in the English-speaking world.

Dinner was followed by a wonderful gala show featuring Taiwan's Harrot Yu's artistic and deft FISM act (which he claims he will continue to improve??? Huh? What's to improve, it's already perfect.); Korea's Casa's sleight-of-hand card magic, and Max Maven's most profound revelation that was astounding yet of the highly mysterious and head-scratching caliber which many of us in Japan have come to expect. This was followed by Jared Kopf's hard-core sleight-of-hand magic, whom I had the most fortunate opportunity of interpreting for, and finally Eugene Burger's incredible act of mystery and mischievous mayhem--which for those of you considering performing for a Japanese audience should know--translates quite well into Japanese (by Atsushi Takizawa).

Jared was little known by most convention goers that I spoke with, but having the pleasure of interpreting for him, I can tell you that the audience loved him.
Japanese magicians really go for hardcore sleights, especially when done flawlessly.
His 3-hour lecture afterwards was incredibly entertaining and enlightening. Many earnest students wanted to get a closer look at his double-deal and Oink shuffle--although much to their dismay, realized that proximity and even a performer's view gains you nothing when the slight is executed so flawlessly.

By the end of what has traditionally become known as the "night lecture,", many of us gathered for a bowl of ramen that normally wouldn't be available at 12:30 AM. While waiting for our simmering bowl of Chinese noodles fashioned Japanese style, magic was being discussed or performed at all of the tables located in the modest makeshift dining room. This, and the private gatherings in our respective hotel rooms is what many of the Hakone convention goers look forward to.

Day 2 was filled with even more magic. The festivities started at 9:45 with the announcement of this year's _hitoneta_ contest winner, Noguchi san. This was followed by a "morning lecture" and performance by the master Dr. Sawa. *Dr. Sawa has asked me to interpret for him during an upcoming (and morbid as it may sound, what he describes as his last tour of the US) lecture tour to the US. I definitely won't pass up the honor.

After Dr. Sawa performed and generously explained his latest rope magic, which is full of wonderful plots that get away from the usual cut and restored effects (he does that, too, but based on his response during a Q&A session, he tends to favor linking, knot productions, stretching, and joining effects). Unfortunately, Dr. Sawa's presentation does not translate well into English, but by the time he visits the US, I am determined to do justice to this master's humor and wit, if not his incredible touch on rope handling. Less is more here, and perhaps the few English words that Dr. Sawa utters during his show will elegantly convey his charm better than any interpreter will ever be able to do. If it hasn't been mentioned before, it's worth mentioning that Dr. Sawa is a most humble person who credits legendary figures such as Tenkai, Dai Vernon, Shigeo Takagi, and Charlie Miller, but he will almost never take credit for his own contributions that make him the living legend that he is. If any of you have taken the time to read this post by a nobody thus far, please also afford your time also to attend Dr. Sawa's lecture should it become reality some time this year.

The last lecture of the convention was given by the guest of honor, Eugene Burger. He explained just two effects, but that word "just" is not meant in disrespect, for he also shared with us some of the most invaluable insights into the profession of performing miracles. To summarize would be an injustice, but space is limited so allow me this crime: "If you value your magic, and treat your audience with respect, then your audience will, in turn, respect magic as an art form and respect you as a performer."

These word will resonate with those who were so fortunate to participate in his lecture, for years to come. I can say that because more than 20 of the 100+ magicians whom I've spoken with or exchanged email with after the convention have said exactly the same thing. They learned more about magic thanks to Eugene's insightful talk. And if I may speak for them, we are truly indebted to this extraordinary man.

Thank you for reading this long post.

Joji "George" Matsuo

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 11:28 am
by Max Maven
It was indeed a lovely convention.

One correction: The Taiwanese performer was not named Yu Ho Jin (that's the name of the wonderful Korean manipulator who is the current FISM Grand Prix champion, among many stellar credits). The young man from Taiwan, who makes jumbo cards transform into regular size, and vice versa, is named Harrot Wu.

And Joji did a yeoman's job of translating for Jared Kopf -- no easy task!

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 11:42 am
by Joji Matsuo
Dear Max,
Thank you for the correction and the compliment!


Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 4:12 pm
by Brad Henderson
Hakone is the home of the Karakuri Creation Group - makers of the amazing puzzle boxes you may have seen in MAGIC magazine, MAGIC LIVE! , or the Martha Stewart show.

If anyone is still in the area, I believe they have a museum of sorts.

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 4:32 pm
by Richard Kaufman
There are shops to buy the amazing puzzle boxes in Hakone. Not seen a museum, though.
Wish I could have been there.

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 5:16 pm
by Brad Henderson
I am referring to a museum at the Karakuri Group facilities. They make more than the traditional sliding panel boxes.

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 6:48 pm
by Joji Matsuo
I've accidentally found this place with my wife and we had a great time. It'sis called a museum, but it's more like a shop with a few connected rooms that customers can walk through. The door to this "museum" is one of the highlights of the whole tour. After you enter, display cases lined up on both sides of the room form a walk path.The path has display cases filled with puzzle boxes of various sizes, shapes, and complexities. Some are incredibly expensive, others are just for display. There are/were two pieces with a magic theme, a huge playing card and the other a rabbit with a top hat, but the card wasn't in working order when I asked to try it, and the other was for viewing only.
It makes a nice interlude if you're into puzzle boxes.
Call in advance if you want to do the workshop. I haven't done it yet.

Re: Hakone 2015, Japan

Posted: April 6th, 2015, 10:57 pm
by Brad Henderson
I have collected for a few years now. The rabbit and hat is a nice one. Last year they made a snake in a basket. They also have done a series of drawer boxes designed to look like books. The Inlay work on some of them are amazing.

For magicians they produced a wooden fan type device that automatically fanned cards. Was advertised as designed for business cards and magicians.

In truth, most of their best pieces are magic related in that they use the same thought processes many magicians use in leading their audiendes toward or away from relevant ideas.

they do amazing work.