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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Magic Bar Review: Hey Pola ・ マジックバーレビュー:ヘイ・ポーラ

On 2014-01-06 I went to the magic bar "Hey Pola" in Sapporo together with an American magician who was visiting Sapporo over the New Year and had found my blog. Hey Pola is the bar of Tsugutomo Nihei, and he has been running this bar for 17 years. When we were told this, my American friend said: "What, he started running this place when he was 15?!" It turns out that Nihei is 43 years old, but he looks a LOT younger, haha.


When we came in, there was a group of three Japanese men there already. We all sat at the counter and watched Nihei's performance together. We got to see a handkerchief fly around the bar and then come back, some mentalism/lie detector things with a large wooden cube with different colors, magic with coins moving around and disappearing from the spectator's hand (ending up inside a glass), magic with bills (1000 yen became 10,000 yen), card magic to the soundtrack of Top Gun, and signed cards ending up inside an unopened PET-bottle of water, and more.


Lots of funny gags were sprinkled throughout the show, and one that I liked in particular was that he claimed his stage name was "Mr. Nande", written with the Chinese characters for "south" and "hand". This happens to sound exactly like the expression for "Why?" which is used in Japanese when you see something unexplainable. He also explained that like the hostess bars (there are lots of hostess bars in the same district) nearby, they had a "request fee" system. If you request a specific hostess (instead of getting one randomly assigned) there is often a "request fee". So if you requested a specific magician (though there was only one there, so you would get him no matter what), they would charge you 5000 yen. So any time anyone said "nande!?" in surprise, they counted up one more on the request fee charge, which was quite funny. One guy had a bill for 25,000 yen when he was leaving (which, as it turns out, he did not actually have to pay since it was just a joke).


Hey Pola also uses music and sound in a fun and interesting way. When the first card trick was about to start, Nihei put on RayBan sunglasses and started blasting the soundtrack of Top Gun. The spectator was asked to pick a card and look hard and remember it. He also had to touch it with his index finger to "lock on". The card was returned, the deck was shuffled, and then the "locked on" finger was used to find the card over and over again. There were many other magic routines done to music. I also loved the fake applause track that he would play after each routine was finished, haha.


The price we paid was 3500 yen for 90 minutes of "nomihoudai" (unlimited drinking), which is the standard price in Sapporo (prices in Sapporo are cheaper than Tokyo or Osaka in general). The bar is quite small but feels much roomier than it is. There are seats at the counter and some tables with sofas. There were lots of posters and paintings of Houdini on the walls. The selection of drinks was pretty standard, though there were some things that are not that common too, like a yogurt based cocktail.


After the performance was over and the other customers left, we sat and talked to "Mr. Nande" for quite some time. He has been to America and talked to my American friend about the Magic Castle and various conventions etc.


All in all, it was a very nice performance. We were told they aimed at "fun" more than "amazing", especially since they (being a bar) get a lot of people who are very drunk. I also like funny magic more than I like amazing magic (though I like both), and there were many jokes I found very funny.


Location: A short walk from the subway (Sapporo, Japan)
Type of magic: Close up
Quality of magic: Good
Cost: 3500 yen
Interior: Nice
Staff: Very nice
Food & drinks: Drinks, the usual selection.
Overall impression: Very funny. Good use of music and sounds.


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