While the annals of vaudeville magic are chock full of Chinese and pseudo-Chinese practitioners, with Indian (and pseudo-Indian) being the second most numerous specialty, one encounters very few Japanese. The most famous of these was Ten Ichi (Tenichi Shokyokusai Hattori, 1852-1912). His most influential innovation was called “Water Fountains”, a trick where whatever he touched with wand began to suddenly gush with great jets of water. (I bet the stage hands hated him). Another famous illusion closely associated with him was called “The Thumb Tie”, wherein his thumbs were tied together, then someone throw a metal ring at him and somehow the ring would land wrapped around his arm. When Ten Ichi returned to Asia with his troupe he brought with him lots of effects he had bought in the U.S. And with him gone, many Americans felt free to use his tricks (Thurston, for example, did “Water Fountains”. Cultural exchange is a wonderful thing!)
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.