About Me

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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.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Street magic in Tanuki Koji

In Sapporo we have a shopping arcade called Tanuki Koji ("Little Tanuki Street", tanuki being a Japanese animal similar to a raccoon). After 20:00 when the shops there close, this street is often filled with street entertainers and people practicing dance in front of the shop windows (that become like large mirrors). You can find caricature artists, balloon animal makers, stand up comedians, guitar players, etc. there.


Yesterday I saw a guy doing magic there, so I went up and asked him to show me some magic. He said he was just an amateur, but that he could show me some things. He showed me a lot of things. He did some cigarette magic, a version of the coin matrix, a trick with Bicycle card jokers falling off their bicycles, the Chicago opener, a color changing deck routine, a card sandwich effect, and more. He showed some things with tissue paper to another guy, and had a plank with three different colored handkerchiefs that moved mysteriously. He also made a match disappear by snorting it up his nose, and he jammed a knife through his finger when the finger was covered by a playing card.


He said that he is called Shin, that he is from Asahikawa, and we have a common friend who does magic in an udon noodle shop there. He also knows Johnny Samoa, the New Zealander that did magic at a Halloween party I visited and at my friends wedding a month or so ago.


When he was showing some magic to a girl that also stopped to watch, he suddenly turned to me and asked: "Weren't you on TV a while back? Doing magic? With Yo Oizumi?" I said that I was. So he kind of forgot about the girl and started talking about all kinds of magic with me, and the girl left, haha.


He had good sense when it comes to selecting what magic to perform. He seemed a bit nervous, so sometimes he was flashing quite a lot, and compared to professional magicians, his talking/presentation style was not that funny or entertaining. But everyone starts out like that, of course. It also looked a bit suspicious when he took out a deck of cards, did one trick with that, put it away, took out another deck of cards, did the next trick with that, then changed to yet another deck, etc. I would have preferred if he put a deck away, did something else (e.g. cigarette magic), then took out one (possibly the same, from a spectators view) deck again etc.


He was very nice, and he seemed to speak English quite well (though we mainly spoke Japanese). I gave him a 1000 yen bill as a tip in the hope that other people would also tip well, but in Tanuki Koji there are mostly kids, and they do not have any money that they want to spend, I am told. Another magician acquaintance used to do magic there too, but people would give him between 10 and 100 yen... If you go to Susukino or some place where grownups drink, you can get 10,000 yen from the drunk people if they are impressed, he said.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Magic Bar Review: Osmand

The sign outside Osmand

I went to Tokyo for some university work really really early in the morning of Sunday August 10, 2014. I was going to be busy from early in the morning until around 22:00 or so, but would stay the night in Tokyo. When I am in Tokyo I try to find time to visit magic bars or something similar. I looked around but most such places are closed on Sundays. I did find one magic bar/restaurant open on Sundays, though.


View of the stage from the back seats

Magic Bar Osmand in Roppongi, Tokyo, is open from 16:00 to 22:00 on Sundays. They have a stage show at 18:00. As luck would have it, the higher ups decided that we should have a break in the meetings from around 16:30 to 19:00. I navigated the Tokyo subway net as fast as I could and spent the time from 17:00 to 18:30 in magic bar Osmand.


Since there was a typhoon passing near Tokyo, the weather was pretty bad. Very strong winds and from time to time it rained. When it rained, it rained extremely hard. This may have been the reason why the place was empty. In fact, I was the only customer there.


They asked me if I would prefer them to speak to me (and do magic) in English, but I said that Japanese would be fine. They asked if I also wanted to see the stage show, and I said that if they were up for doing a stage show even if I was the only one watching, I would indeed be very happy.


Butler's business card, with all the important information

First the butler Kenzie produced his business card from a flaming wallet. He also later plucked lights from the walls and threw them in his mouth. He said he was not really a magician and only did small things like this, though. A girl who introduced herself as Aileen the maid served me drinks and food and talked to me for a while. She is also from the northern parts of Japan, though not as far north as where I live.


Me, a previously very animated drawing, and the magician Al

The magician Al came to my table and did some tale magic for me. There was a series of travelling the world related predictions where he had a card key from a hotel selected from me in an envelope locked with a code lock that happened to unlock only with the room number I had picked etc. He also did a card trick where he drew what he thought was my selected card in a small sketchbook. When this turned out to be wrong, he filled in the drawing to look like a whole deck of cards, and then the drawing became animated and one card (my card) rose out of the deck, and then he gave me the resulting drawing (no longer animated).


He then also did a stage show for me. It started with a lot of fire and some heavy music, and then a torch turned into a magician's stick, a dove came out of a book and was put in a cage that then disappeared (including the dove), etc. There were some interactive moments, he for instance turned my 10,000 yen bill into two 1000 yen bills, which he later turned into lots and lots of 10,000 yen bills (and he gave me one of them back). He had me up on stage to do a floating table thing, and he did some rope tricks too.


The butler, me, the maid, and the magician

When I was leaving, a guy came out from the kitchen and told me "Tack så mycket!" ("Thank you very much", in Swedish), which was also quite surprising. One guy who was the boss of the place also helped in taking a photo of me together with the performers, and then commented that he owned an older model of the same camera and had been thinking of buying the model I have, so we talked a little bit about the camera too.


The place had an interesting decor, and the big menu book also had several pages of "back story" explaining what the place was meant to be. They also have a very extensive menu of drinks, and a large selection of food that you can order. Since I was going to have lots of food with the work related people, I only ordered some snacks, though. They were all very nice and talked a lot to me, and they also gave me an umbrella when I left, since it was raining very heavily. I also got a printed photo of myself that they took between the table magic and the stage show, to keep as a souvenir.



There was a 2000 yen charge to watch the stage show, and I think there is a 1000 yen charge if you want to see only the table magic. Then drinks were between 500 yen and 1500 yen, and the food was not that much more expensive than normal restaurants in Tokyo. I ended up paying slightly less than 5000 yen, which is cheap for a magic bar in Tokyo.


Souvenir photo

Location: Very close to the Roppongi station
Type of magic: Close up and stage magic (fixed show times for the stage shows)
Quality of magic: Good
Cost: Variable, but fairly cheap
Interior: Nice
Staff: Very nice
Food & drinks: Large variety of drinks, good selection of food.
Overall impression: Nice staff. Did a full stage show despite there only being one guy in the audience (me)!
Of special note: Open on Sundays. Serve meals. Stage show.