People | 20 QUESTIONS

Hide Yamamoto: 'Magic is absolutely real'

by Carissa Shale

Contributing Writer

Name: Hide Yamamoto
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Magician/owner of Ginza Half Moon bar
Likes: Visiting shrines, seeing the connections between people and things
Dislikes: When people don’t forgive others


1. You didn’t start performing magic until you were 30. What did you do before you were a magician? I did a lot of jobs such as working at bars, emceeing and, when I started a family, I tried my best to start a food cart.

2. So how did you get into magic in the first place? I was 22 and drinking at a bar the first time I saw a magic trick. Someone in the audience in front of me made a handkerchief disappear and I was shocked.

3. Did you have a teacher, or are you self-taught? I watched Las Vegas magic shows on TV and got so excited when trying to copy them. It was so much fun and somehow I was able to master them.

4. What was the first trick you learned? A trick that used money.

5. The magic bar you run is called Half Moon. Any particular meaning behind the name? I like sunlight, but I like the calm feeling of moonlight, and I think everyone else does, too. But it’s strange, as you get older, you’re increasingly amazed whenever you see a new moon.

6. Magic bars, where customers can drink and watch casual performances, are uniquely Japanese. Do you see them taking off in other countries? Sometimes magicians will say they want to open a magic bar in New York, or I’ve been asked to open one in Shanghai. I may have to think about creating a system since it’s hard to perform magic, countries have different cultures and sometimes customers drink too much.

7. Your show is full of ABBA music. Are you a superfan? I heard that Queen Silvia of Sweden wasn’t loved by her people. She was very nervous at her wedding, so ABBA wrote the song “Dancing Queen” for her as a gift. Also, the song “Dancing Queen” has became an anthem for same-sex couples who are trying to change the law. I love ABBA songs because it seems they have the magical power to make everyone happy.

8. How do you want the audience to feel after seeing your show? I want customers to get as excited as they were when they were a child. I want to see them smile. Everyone is working and living life, and we get tired from dealing with human relationships. They should be able to feel innocent once in a while.

9. What’s the most rewarding part about pulling off a trick? I feel so blessed and grateful when the audience is shocked, laughs, moves along to the music, claps and cries, or gives me a hug.

10. But what do you do when a trick goes wrong? If I mess up, I just say “Sorry!” and apologize. There’s nothing you can do about it.

11. Magic royalty, David Copperfield, visited your bar to watch you perform. Were you nervous? One day I suddenly received an email. I was so shocked that David Copperfield was hoping to come to Half Moon and wanted to make a reservation. I was so incredibly moved, I felt like I was above the clouds that someone like him wanted to make a reservation. It was less that I felt nervous and more that I was flying high.

12. After you performed for him, Copperfield said you’re the best magician in Japan. How does it feel to receive such high praise? I wonder if he actually said that? I am definitely not one of the world’s best magicians.

13. Is there any truth to the saying “a magician never reveals their secrets”? Anybody would want to understand what is happening right in front of their eyes. It’s kind of a defensive instinct to ask how something incomprehensible happened because it’s scary. Recently TV shows have been exposing the secrets because so many people want to know. It’s better to say that magic is absolutely real instead of exposing that magic isn’t real. At Half Moon’s shows, all of the tricks are magic. I think it’s funny to tell people that there is some mysterious power behind it all.

14. How do you spend your time off? When I’m not working, I want to feel close to nature and get peace of mind, so I will head to a hot spring (Hakone-Yumoto, for example), climb Mount Fuji, visit a shrine, write calligraphy or draw a picture. I also like searching for beautiful cafes and trying to meet lots of people.

15. You have a magic lamp, but only one wish left. How would you use it? For my three children to be happy.

16. What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ginza Chuo-dori at dusk.

17. Do you have a favorite drink that you make at your bar? A gin and tonic.

18. What is your favorite magic video? David Copperfield’s flying trick. If you’re curious, you should watch it at least once. It’s on YouTube.

19. If you weren’t a magician, what would you be? An architect.

20. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a magician? Of course skill is required, but you should also hone how to make audiences happy instead of simply showing off your talent.