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  • David Hirata

Japanese magicians and the magic of Fred Schodt

Updated: Feb 27

I've been spending a week here back in my old stomping grounds of Northern California, performing my theatrical magic show, "A Box Without A Bottom" as part of the Best of SF Solo series in San Leandro. It's an honor to be a part of this Bay Area tradition, and opening night was great.

The show is based on real historical characters, most notably Namigoro Sumidagawa, the Japanese magician who in 1867 became the first citizen to receive a passport for foreign travel in over 240 years.

In researching his story, I came across Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe by Frederik Schodt (ISBN 978-1611720099). It's a terrific book and Fred also generously shared some of his research materials with me.

Frederik Schodt's book "Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe"

Fred is an insightful, entertaining writer who has written some really important work on Japanese manga and anime, in addition to works like Professor Risley that shed light on Japanese and American history. If you have any interest in Japanese culture, I strongly suggest you pop over to Fred's website:

I'm a huge fan of Fred's work! While the story of the Japanese magicians, jugglers and acrobats of the Risley troupe is the story nearest to my heart, I also have to point out The Four Immigrants, a "documentary comic book" that I feel is a hugely important contribution to Japanese American history. Originally published in 1931, it's one of the earliest examples of manga and Fred deserves kudos aplenty for his work in translating Four Immigrants and making it possible for the work to reach a wide audience. It's a beautiful, funny, at times heartbreaking story. You can find out more about it here:

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