By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu EntertainmentEditor
If surprise is a cornerstone of a successful magic act, then Toshiko Inoh was off to a solid start Tuesday at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
A palpable gasp of approval arose from the capacity crowd as soon as the curtain rose at the Palace of Mystery inside the exclusive Mecca of magic, as Inoh’s age was as much an unexpected attraction as her act.
“I was a little nervous at first, not knowing how the audience would react to me,” said Inoh, 83, during an interview at The Rafu Shimpo offices earlier in the day. She debuted at the Magic Castle on Monday evening and will perform three shows per night through this Sunday
“They seemed glad to see me, and I was thankful I was there, I was grateful for the applause.”
A native of Tokyo, Inoh first took up magic more than 30 years ago when she was a high school teacher, not necessarily due to her love of the craft, but more as a way to reign in the fleeting attention spans of her unruly students.
“It was in the 1980s, when the economy was booming, but there were many problems in some schools with kids being out of control,” Inoh recalled. “I was looking for a way to raise their spirits and at the same time, capture their minds.”
Her penchant for teaching has made its way into Inoh’s magic act, as she performs in the traditional hakama and utilizes props that include Japanese uchiwa (fans) and umbrellas that she herself has painted with the faces of mythical spirits.
“I still like to teach, and I want to show off the spirit of Japan,” she said.
Inoh has appeared on stage in Taiwan, Korea, and at some of the largest magic conventions in Japan, where she has earned certification to teach magic as well as perform.
At the Magic Castle, she engaged the audience with a series of illusions that showed the discipline and skill of an experienced performer. Her mere presence is augmented not only by her age, but by the fact that she is a woman who has enjoyed great success in what is still largely a male-dominated field.
“It’s wonderful to do a trick, like making a handkerchief disappear,” Inoh said. “I love to make something happen that people can’t believe.”
–Rafu staff member Ichiro Shimizu contributed to this story.