By Diana Lee
July 18, 2006
|UNIORB: ASIAN TREND: JAPAN|
|Princess Tenko - Illusionist|
Part of Princess Tenko's attraction is the mystery that surrounds her. The biggest act she has pulled off is making herself a grand illusion. No one knows for sure her age, size, or anything about her private life. Appearing glamorous, sensuous and ageless, she has significantly heightened the popularity of magic in Japan.
As one of the stops in her magic tour, Princess Tenko gave an exciting performance to a packed house in Shunan last month. A wide range of spectators, ranging from teens to octogenarians, flocked to see the most famous magician in the nation. Either enchanted by her beauty or by her provocative clothes, every one walked away entranced - baffled by her illusions.
The show presented standard magician tricks - performers being sliced up in boxes, floating on air, as well as disappearing and reappearing behind covers. Replete with stereo music and laser lights, extravagant props, exotic costumes, the show captivated the audience with Princess Tenko in center stage supported by an all-male ensemble providing background entertainment whether it be singing, dancing or performing martial arts.
As a master of illusion, Princess Tenko performed hocus-pocus acts that left the onlookers gasping and scratching their heads. Here is a glimpse of the highlights of the show:
Princess Tenko's popularity seems to stem from what the audience expected of her, as she once admitted, "It seems like everyone always has their own image of what I should be." Thus, she's played up to the hilt the stereotypes on stage - whether setting up oriental props and appearing in sexy costumes in her Las Vegas shows for Westerners, or speaking English and dressing more conservative and western-like for the crowds at home.
Evidently, she has used her celebrity status to market everything from cosmetics to Mattel dolls. After being recognized as one of the top magicians in the world, her fame surged in the United States. In fact, a weekly TV anime series was produced based on her, "Princess Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic", which ran for a single season of 13 episodes from 1995-1996. As a treat to the program, she appeared in person to do magic tricks at the end of each episode. Mattel Inc., a famous U.S. toy company, designed a line of fashion dolls after her, which sold millions after being displayed on store shelves. Since then, Princess Tenko tried to maintain her character image as she said, "Like a doll, I can't change the length of my hair, my makeup, my weight. My age will be 24 forever. Last year I was 24, this year I'm 24, and next year I'll still be 24. It's hard work." So far, she seems to be successful in staying eternally young like her dolls.
Looking at Princess Tenko's past, little is known about her early years beyond that she wanted to emulate her mother as a pianist and that she studied arts, classical ballet, and traditional Japanese instruments. Born as Mariko Itakura, she was known by her stage name, Marie Akase, when she turned singer. It was only after the sudden death of the well-known male magician, Hikita Tenko, who took her under his wings as an apprentice in 1976, that her rise to stardom in magic became legendary. The older Tenko selected Mariko over two other apprentices - both male and older - to take on his mantle and his name. Miss Hikita adopted Princess Tenko as her magician title.
Princess Tenko made her debut as an escape artist in the "Cable Escape in the Air" show. She soon achieved royal status in international circuits for her Houdini-like ability to escape fiery car crashes, water torture cells and suspended cable cars. As the first woman and the second Asian to be honored, she won the Magician of the Year prize from the Academy of Magical Arts in 1990. Making her debut in the United States, she appeared at the Radio City Music Hall in 1994. She became an honorable goodwill ambassador of African Wild Animal Conservation Fund in 1996. Besides being an illusionist, she has earned a list of credits - as a singer, stage director, movie director, video photographer and painter. She now gives regular performances in Las Vegas.
Princess Tenko has not only stood out as a captivating magician but also succeeded in breaking into the male-dominated profession. One of her biggest fans is Kim Jong II, the North Korean president, who has continuously invited her to perform in Pyongyang. For Tenko's fans, the mystery to her persona is not as important as the fame the magician had managed to gain, not only in Japan but also around the world.
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