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Magic - MAJIKKU - Mahou - マジック

Issue No. 1: Intersections + Magic - August 2021 -------

Artwork pictured above: Akemi Tsutsui-Kunitake "Yamabachan"

Word of the Month

Excited!! We’re introducing our very first Japanese Word of the Month. The word of the month is inspired by our spotlighted artist. We’ll include definitions, transliterations, visualizations and cultural connections.

Phonetics only tell so much in Japanese--there are many words that sound and look the same phonetically with different meanings. So, we’ll be including the kanji, Chinese characters, in our definition. Kanji uses logography (a system that fuses elements of visual symbolism and phonetic meaning) to define words and syllables in pronunciation and to provide a deeper descriptive meaning.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and we are lucky enough to have Japanese American Creator, Illustrator and self-proclaimed “Art Witch” Akemi Tsutsui-Kunitake to provide a visual definition and send her message of meaning.

Inspiration for this month's word

We were surprised when we asked CASEY KAWAGUCHI who he’d like to have dinner with, dead or alive, and he said “David Blaine.” David Blaine the American Illusionist. One of Casey Kawaguchi’s artistic inspirations is magic. And Blaine is known for his feats of illusion and endurance. Casey can relate to the dedication that magicians and comedians have to their art.

In Casey's Words:

“To make magic seem real and to make magic real….you have to treat it like the art form it is….to have an insane amount of discipline--to almost, like, wield real magic into existence, you know, through your work, through your dedication to it.”

Magic - MAJIKKU - Mahou - マジック

Magic- ma-gic, /‘majik/, (noun): (1) an extraordinary influence from a supernatural force; (2) the use of spells, charms or other means believed to have unusual power over what’s natural; (3) the art of sleight of hand



The Japanese language borrows and refashions many English loanwords. For example, borrowed as a loanword, Magic in Japanese is “Majikku” and written phonetically in katakana.

Mahou- ma-ho—, /ma’xo:/, (noun): Mahou can refer to magic, real or illusionary, as well as witchcraft or sorcery, a spell.

The Japanese word for magic--mahou--combines the kanji for ma (which means witch, demon, evil spirit, evil influences) with the suffix hou (which means law, principle, method, mood, rule, system). A magician or illusionist who uses “sleight of hand” style magic tricks (tejina), is called a tejinashi.

Synonyms & Phrases:

  • Majutsu (the study or art of magic)

  • Tejina (“sleight of hand” magic tricks)

  • kuro mahou (black magic)

  • shiro mahou (white magic)

  • tejinashi (magician)

  • Mahou no (magical)

  • Mahou wo tsukaeru! (Use magic!)

  • mahou wo tsukau neko (a cat who uses magic)

  • neko ni norowateta (to have been cursed by an evil cat)

Mahou in Pop Culture: If you are into Japanese anime--you may like mahou shoujo or “magical girl” or majokko“little witch” storylines that feature youthful heroines and tackle themes of femininity, romance and friendship, and transformation. Here are a few examples you may know: Mahou Shoujo Madoka, Majo no Takkyuubin [Kiki’s Delivery Service], Little Witch Academia, and Sailor Moon.

Article written by Margaret Ozaki-Graves


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