I use many kinds of bells in my act. A bunch of tiny ones, huge size ones, Traditional Japanese prop and western style hand bells. I am usually recognized as “A magician who uses fans”, but my act rather has uniqueness in the “bell part”, because no one else uses such a many kinds of bells in one magic routine.
When I thought about creating the act, I was thinking to use fans and bells together. In other words, when I decided to make a fan act, the thought about using bells naturally came into my mind. But I didn’t use the bells efficiently in the beginning. The part of bells of my act has been made with some bumps and detours.
Why did I think using bells with fans so naturally?
The idea came from a traditional dance which is called “Mikagura”.
I was learning Japanese folk dance which was called “minyo”, when I was a little. Please note, it is not “Classical Japanese dance” which is known as traditional Japanese dance to foreigners. Such a Classic dance is called “Nihon-buyo”, you have to pay a lot of money to learn it. And also have to have expensive kimonos for it. In the other hands, “minyo” is song about ordinary people’s life. The move of the dance mostly expresses their works at a fields or fishing grounds. The fee of learning “minyo” is not so expensive and the costumes doesn’t cost much to buy or rent. Most of the kids in the “minyo” class were not from a very wealthy family.
Once in the year, we had a recital of “minyo”. At the end of the show, we performed “Mikagura” as a finale with whole class members. “Mikagura” is a dance for dedication to the god, originally danced in a shrine to express thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest. People ring bells, which is called “kagura-suzu”, and spin a fan dynamically with the sounds of drums. The moves are reflected in my act.
By the way, I didn’t know when I was a in the “minyo” class, but a “kagura-suzu” is a very expensive prop. You know, the kids were not from very rich family. So their parents might think hard to find a substitute item.
The idea they got was attaching bells on a whisk.
It was not a bad idea, is it?
They could get the prop only with several hundred yen even it costs more than 20,000 JPY if you buy the real one!
Unfortunately, this negatively affected on my routine. I used this cheap looking prop in my act in the early days of my career. I couldn’t help it because the prop for “Mikagura” is equal to “a whisk with bells” for me. I even didn’t recognize there was a real “kagura-suzu” in the world! Ohhhhh, poor young girl…
However, thanks of this strange thinking, I produced some unique routines. For example, I created a trick with a small silver cooking bowl.
- I produce many silver coins from the air and put them into a cooking bowl.
- I take a whisk which somehow is hooked on a table and mix the coins in the bowl (see, this is a proper way to use a whisk!)
- I flip the bowl upside down, then silver confetti flutter down from it and silver bells are attached into the whisk! It means the coins mixed by a whisk changes to confetti and bells!
It was a kind of childish idea….
I also created some other routines which concern with a whisk for a while.
BUT A WHISK AND A GORGEOUS JAPANESE FANS…!
Now I know it was totally mismatch. It was trial and ERROR.
After a lot of trial and error, finally I realized that “I should not use whisk for the performance”. And I also thought that “there must be a true ‘kagura-suzu’ for the purpose”. So, I belatedly started to look for “kagura-suzu” at a certain street. There is a place which has a lot of shops of ritual article and Buddhist objects in my hometown. Eventually, it was so easy to find a true ‘kagura-suzu’, but at the same time I faced the very expensive price of it. I felt it was not affordable for me…
However, luckily I found another thing on a displaying shelf. It was a bit smaller, looked cheaper and doesn’t look gorgeous, but the size and the weight are closer to my lovely-fake-kagura-suzu which is made of a whisk. It seemed easier to use than the gorgeous one. Whereas a real “kagura-suzu” was a metallic staff, a small “kagura-suzu” was made of paper and wood which might be made for children.
I used to use a “kagura-suzu” just for decorative prop. After I got the tiny-real-kagura-suzu, I got new ideas and put them into my routine. A “kagura-suzu” finally really became a part of the magic. The part of fans and the part of bells connected smoothly and necessity of their combination become clearer.
The part of bells increased the presence little by little. I also added handbells and earrings of small bells to my performance later.
When I got handbells which perform one of the important parts of my act, I even didn’t think using them for magic. I got them at an open air market in Italy. I supposed to participate to a magic convention and somehow I arrived there one day earlier in the event. So I had free time for all day long.
The town was not a touristic place, but it was the first visit in Italy for me. Anything was so interesting to see. In the morning of the first day, I started to walk with no porpoise. Soon I found that many people were heading to a certain direction. I follow the flow, and reached at a wide open place with a lot of small shops! It must be a weekend market or so. There are shops of foods, kitchen goods, metallic tools, antiques, clothes and etc. I really like looking around such a place! I found the handbells during my strolling in the wonderful market.
Just before the trip to Italy, I organized a small magic event with members of a magic circle. We produced a close-up magic competition, which the competitors have to perform in 10 minutes. I thought using the handbells letting them know the time if a had another chance to organize such a competition.
I wanted the same size ones, but there were not, so I got 2 handbells of different sizes. Eventually it worked better for my performance, though.
By the way, I was quite busy before I went to Italy. Between the close-up magic contest and the magic convention in Italy, I entered a stage magic competition in Tokyo, Japan. The routine was not same as the latest one, I didn’t think it was perfect. Such a feeling must have been shown to the audience, because I couldn’t get any good reaction from them. Of course I didn’t win at the competition.
I didn’t care much about the result, but was not really satisfied with my performance. I wanted to win against myself. It means, creating a complete routine, performing perfectly and grabbing the audience’s hearts certainly.
A person who watched my performance at the competition gave me some words, “The earring part was very good. When you took the earrings out from your ears and rang them, I even felt awed.”
Well, that part doesn’t have any magic effects, though…
He might not be able to find any other point to compliment.
It wasn’t because I got these words, but the part he mentioned had become extremely better. I supposed to take part in a bigger competition next year, so I was thinking rebuilding my routine. Then right after I came back from Italy, I started it.
As you are aware of the words from one of the audience, I had already had an earring part in my routine and the earrings were made of bells. First, I thought making more gorgeous earrings, so then bought up many kinds of bells. In the collection, I chose small bells which have fine wrinkles on the surface. The bells had special sparkles because of the wrinkles. I made brand-new earring of grape-shape with the tiny bells.
Well, the earring was well-made, but I really didn’t think about how to use it (Such a thing happens frequently in the procedure of creating my new routine). Someday, I put the earring into the handbell which I got in Italy for no special reason. It was smoothly go inside. “OK! I use the handbells with this earring!”, I decided. In this way, “the part of bells” newly created in my routine.
“Creating a new part” didn’t mean increasing number of parts in my act. My act can be divided in 4 parts, it hasn’t been changed from the beginning. One part was “deleted” from my routine when I added the bell part. But it doesn’t mean reducing magic effects which had been existed. I shortened a very long routine of 2 minutes and 30 seconds to only 15 seconds, and squished it into the last part.
In this way, my routine became extremely speedy. It also had more magic effects! In other words, the former routine was so sleepy, boring and less of magic…unfortunately.
A person who does research on magic told me that mine was the ONLY stage magic performance which uses the live sounds efficiently, at least as he knew. I am suspicious of it, and even if it is true, I don’t think it increases the worth of my act.
However, a truly-gratifying thing which concerned with “the live sound” happened at a magic convention.
At the convention, I performed at a night gala. It was held at a hall half outside in a beautiful park. The place was surrounded by walls in three directions and a roof on the top, but the entrance is fully open to the outside.
At the rehearsal, one of a background staff told me to check the ringing sound at the audience seats because he set up a microphone for it. The young man set up the microphone ONLY for my performance! He might think the small ringing sound would be diffused in such an environment.
Of course it was not me ordering that, I didn’t even think asking that to backstage people. Even if I thought about that, I couldn’t ask it because I know they are so busy with full of the things to do in backstage. Usually they don’t have such a room to do extra.
The staff already had seen my act somewhere before. And he is a very good magic performer himself. So he found that the sound of bells is important in my routine. He must be thinking delivering the sound to the audience was important for the show, maybe he knew it more than me.
I deeply appreciate his thoughtful behavior.
There is another story about handbells.
Usually magicians have a backup of each, because they break unexpectedly. I always bring another set of prop when I go to perform anywhere, but I cannot prepare a backup of handbells. I really didn’t intend to use it for magic when I bought it, so I didn’t get extra. Even if I could visit the market in Italy one more time, it were not sure to get the same ones. So I almost gave up to have another set of handbells. Fortunately the bells were not so fragile.
But. I happened to find exact same ones at a flea market in Berlin, Germany!
In Germany people take good care of old things, so you can see many flea markets here and there on weekends. Most of them are held outside, but some are in huge building and open every day.
One day I went to a flea market which I always wanted to visit. It is held at Tiergarten, which is a large park located in the center of Berlin. I didn’t intend to buy something, but just looking around. And I found the handbells on a booth of brass materials.
I asked the price, but it was a bit higher than I expected. I tried price reduction, but they said “no”. So then I really thought I didn’t need it, and was about to leave the booth.
“OK, I accept your price!”
The seller said. Then I got the second set of handbells with reasonable price.
I was really surprised when I placed the handbells. The ones from Berlin and Italy had exactly same shapes and sizes. They must come from a same factory or it might be so common in Europe… The small differences are brighter color and higher sound of Berlin’s. I use both sets when I perform. If you have seen my act since 2006, you might have listened to either of the sound.
Special thanks to:
Kasuri-no-kai (minyo class)
Nagoya University Magician’s club
Original Japanese Text