Yugi – The Secret Force

By Deana Murray

Yugi Yamamoto and Deana Murray

Equally at ease, in front of the footlights as behind the stage curtains producing shows and seminars, stands Yugi (pronounced: ‘U-G’) and his wife, Meriko, nearby, to assist and translate. He performs, he invents, he shares, and he offers a platform upon which others can stand. Yugi attracts audiences and other magicians like butterflies in a warm soft wind on his path toward greater magic.

Sometimes, when you are baffled by the results of some “secret force” you know instantly that this is the kind of magic you want to perform. And then once you have it and know the “secret” you realize how really clever it is. This is my image of Yugi. Like his magic or his productions, the more amazed you are by what he does… the less likely you are to know how or why he does it.

And maybe, that’s the point! For Yugi, it’s more about style than ego. Theory doesn’t make up for delivery. And the connecting threads between “honesty, hard work, and audience appeal should never be an illusion.”

I had to ask. What DO YOU want people to know about you? He said, “Those that know me, already know everything!” And what DON’T you want people to know. (I would have kept this to myself, except he said…) “Those that know me already know everything!” So now you know — he has a sense of humor!!!

Yugi became involved with magic early on, at age 10. Book stores were rare and there were very few magic prop shops, so he just invented his own effects and routines. And he was good at it. The logic at the time was to make extras and sell them to the magic stores and dealers. The first were a Walnut Shell Monte and Reducing Cards effects.

The reality that Yugi learned was that these same shopkeepers were copying and selling his inventions (and others) as their own. Keeping all the profit. This “put him off” of magic dealers, but not the magic.

Yugi kept inventing and winning awards along the way. The Balloon Break, The Beer Bottle Production, the Four-Color Cards… the ‘Kodan Screen.’ He went to the Summit in Washington D.C. with his silk production act at age 19. He tried working at his father’s company, but he really never stopped believing in the magic. It is the story of a lot of magicians and the magic they perform… Yugiwas…‘Sharp as a pin. Pointed in one direction and headed in another.’

He started his own business in 1984. Aptly titled for his English speaking friends—UGM Co. In this family owned and operated company, his son, Koji and daughter, Yasuko also help. By the way, Yasuko is married to Kenji Minemura. {Kenji won the SARMOTI Award last year and the Golden Lion Award in 2000.}

Koji (left) with Yasuda

Yugi teaches, mentors, advises and helps book international magicians like Rocco or Mark Mitton from New York. He looks for eye contact and movement. He likes performers that show their own personality. “Being a copy is too easy.”

Either in performance or in reproduction of objects, this is a matter of honor. Originality is very important. He also emphasizes practice, practice, practice.

Yugi and Meriko travel around the world (mostly to other magic conventions) and personally choose performers for the shows they organize. He says that, “videos are not reliable all the time.” Last year he circled his homeland throughout Japan, then to Europe, Korea, China and the U.S. on his path to attract the best of the best. He organized the Summit in Nagoya, Japan in 1993 which is held every two years. He also took on the challenge of arranging for the talent and producing the World Magic Seminar – Asia over 20 years ago.

Yugi does not separate teenagers and adults, in his search for his shows and seminars. Neither does he separate his audiences. For him, the feeling is somewhat different. “Magic is Magic. There is no age concept.” (And yet, another bit of humility – as we apply that thought… and this…) Yugi does not separate the ‘secret force’ from the effect. It’s just that he doesn’t let you see it all at once!!!

“I’m very proud to call Yuji one of my closest friends.”

–Joe Stevens