At 6 years old, John Hirokawa found himself hooked on magic.
Library visits with his parents provided him with books on the topic, but Hirokawa couldn’t yet read. So his mother, the late Ruth Hirokawa, took the time to attempt it, figuring out tricks and passing on whatever knowledge she was able to glean.
“She was kind of like my teacher throughout that time,” he says.
Hirokawa, of course, has since proven that magic was more than just a childhood fancy. At age 12, he appeared on stage alongside David Copperfield, and at 16 he won the junior division of Federation International des Societies Magiques in Belgium.
His passion for magic was one Hirokawa always hoped to channel into a career. With no magic acts in Waikiki, Hirokawa saw performers like Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy, and sought to bring that caliber of skill to Hawaii’s entertainment scene.
Eventually, after stints at birthday parties and conventions, Hirokawa met Roberts Hawaii and Roy Tokujo (then with Paradise Cove Luau).
“(They) actually had the vision to see that it would work,” says Hirokawa of a show in Waikiki.
On April 15, 1990, Hirokawa debuted Magic of Polynesia. Only 25 years old at the time, he was one of the youngest headliners ever to perform in Waikiki.
“It was just that excitement of not knowing and just getting to do what I love as a hobby, professionally now,” he recalls.
Now, 25 years later, Hirokawa, who appeared on MidWeek‘s June 27, 1990, cover, still is enjoying the life of a professional magician.
“Through the years, that excitement and that fun have never changed, honestly,” he says.
Some things certainly have, though. Every three years or so, Hirokawa and his team incorporate major changes into the show. It can be a challenge, he admits, to constantly come up with new and innovative acts.
Lately, Hirokawa has enjoyed performing “close-up” magic, which involves a lot of interaction with the audience. It’s a sort of realism that requires good sleight of hand. He might, for instance, walk up to someone, take his or her rings and link them together, or borrow money and make it disappear then reappear somewhere else.
“That’s the kind of stuff that I love to do now because it’s very impromptu and it varies from show to show,” he says. “Just doing magic with no smoke and mirrors.”
Still, Hirokawa’s favorite portion of the show is during the finale, when he makes it snow.
“I have that same kind of first-time feeling every night,” he says. “When we have locals come and they bring their kids who haven’t experienced snow before, it’s just a real magical feeling.”
For 23 years, Hirokawa has been married to wife Nadine, with whom he has three grown children. Life, he says, has gone by so quickly.
“I feel real old,” he says with a laugh. “And that’s been one magic trick I’ve never been able to figure out: How to stop time.”
Magic of Polynesia celebrates its 25th anniversary with a “25 for 25” kamaaina special. From now until May 9, residents may purchase tickets to the show for only $25 (regular price is $59). For more information and tickets, call 971-4321 or visit magicofpolynesia.com/25for25.