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Illusionist promises Okinawa surprises

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-06-11

Some people like to call it magic, but Princess Tenko calls her performances very special illusions.

By whatever name, the magical smoke and mirrors performed by the 49-year-old Niigata native is sure to bring hefty rounds of applause from her audiences during weekend performances at the Southern Beach Hotel in Itoman City. “This time,” she says, “I’m going to show Okinawan audiences a very unknown show.” Princess Tenko last performed in Okinawa in 2000 at the Okinawa Convention Center.

Princess Tenko, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her pet tigers, broke into the magic and illusions business back in 1976, when she transformed her musical career into that of a sorcerer’s apprentice to learn from Hikida Tenko, the legend of Japanese magic circles. The elder statesman of magic picked Princess Tenko, whose real name is Mariko Itakura, to carry his mantle, a move that raised the ire of others in the male-dominated field by choosing her over two male apprentices.

Her performances contain elements of traditional magic, but also introduces monster type animals. Since her North American debut in 1994 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, Princess Tenko has attained what can only be described as worldwide fame. She’s had an American magical-girl-inspired cartoon series developed on the basis of her feats, and the toy maker giant Mattel created a line of fashion dolls in her likeness.

A world traveler, even when not performing magic and illusions, Princess Tenko has stirred controversy with a couple of trips to North Korea, where she performed for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Il. She’s also become the African Wild Animal Conservation Fund’s worldwide goodwill ambassador.

More importantly, only ten years into the magic and illusions business, she joined American David Copperfield and British magician Paul Daniels in being chosen Magician of the Year by the Magic Arts Academy in the United States.

Showtime Saturday night is 7 p.m. at the Southern Beach Hotel. There will be two performances Sunday, the first a matinee show at 1:30 p.m. Tickets and reservations information is available in Japanese at (098) 869-4415.

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