When I first heard about the Traditional Japanese Magic Show being offered at TUJ, I had no clue what to expect. As I am fairly new to the magic scene, I wasn’t quite sure how it would differ from magic tricks that I’d seen in America. Most of them have to deal with illusions and tricking the audience into believing something that seems impossible.
But Rie, one of the Activities & Events coordinators (side note: and has the coolest hair ever! If you ever come to TUJ, you should totally meet her and have a chat; she is so friendly and has made my TUJ experience all the better!), was explaining to me that this kind of magic was called “Wazuma.” It’s a type of traditional Japanese magic that has been handed down from the Edo-period (1615-1868). One of the flyers summed up its history pretty well:
The history of ‘magic’ in Japan dates back to the Nara period (710-794). However, there was no term for magic at that time, and it was passed down to its performers by word of mouth. During the Edo period (1615-1868), magic was called “Tezuma” or “Shinadama” and was extremely popular. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), foreign magic was brought to Japan, which people started calling “Yozuma.” In order to differentiate the types of magic, people started calling the Japanese magic “Wazuma.” The more foreign culture was brought to Japan, the more “Wazuma” decreased in popularity. Although “Wazuma” was selected as an intangible cultural heritage by the Japanese government in May 1997, the tradition of “Wazuma” is dying out.
Still, even with all this context, I didn’t really know what I should be expecting. On the day of, Tomizawa Yugen came to Mita Hall and gave us a great performance, despite feeling a little under the weather! I’m not allowed to take pictures during the performance (plus I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises should any of you might possibly want to attend in the future), but he was really humorous and I could tell he was having a lot of fun. So, I don’t have any photos, except for the promotional ones from the flyer:
…and Rie, introducing the performance with a little background on Mr. Tomizawa and “Wazuma.”
There was a Q&A afterwards, and one of the questions was: “What makes ‘Wazuma’ unique?” Mr. Tomizawa had to think about it a little bit and said it’s more about the essence of the magic. American magicians (especially the ones in Las Vegas, he said) were always very showy and the tricks are mainly about flamboyance. But Japanese “Wazuma” is a little more nuanced in its movement. He explained that it can be described with the essence of “wabi-sabi,” which has to do with more delicacy, subtlety, and intimacy.
I’m not sure I completely understand yet, but I’ve been thinking about it for the past couple days, and I think that is actually quite accurate. When I remember his performance, it had to do a lot with little things and little surprises that put smiles on people’s faces… so, nothing that would blow our minds or anything! And then suddenly scenes of people in the Edo period enjoying the same things made me feel somehow… nostalgic? Not that “Wazuma” was really a part of my childhood, but it definitely put things into perspective to think that I was enjoying the same things that people from the Edo period were!
Anyway, it was such a privilege to see Mr. Tomizawa perform his magic at TUJ!