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Princess Tenko

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Princess Tenko

Cover of Genii (1989)
BornItakura Mariko
June 29, 1959
Arai, Niigata

Princess Tenko (b. 1959) is the stage name of Itakura Mariko (born June 29, 1959 in Arai, Niigata), a pop singer turned magician specialising in grand illusions.


Her name is taken from Hikita Tenkō, a male Japanese magician who was managed by the same person as Mariko and to whom Mariko was apprenticed in 1976. The older Tenko passed his mantle to her before he died at the age of 45 by heart disease. Though he had several apprentices, his sponsorships chose Mariko as the 2nd Tenko. She was already well known as a singer under a stage name, Mari Asakaze. The sponsorships believed that she would clear older Tenko's huge debt, a speculation which was successful.

She debuted in North America at the Radio City Music Hall in 1994, and subsequently achieved worldwide fame. She was famous to the extent that an American magical girl-inspired cartoon series based on her character was created and Mattel produced a line of fashion dolls named after her. In 1996, she became an honorary goodwill ambassador of the African Wild Animal Conservation Fund.

She was the subject of controversy after making a visit to North Korea in April 1998. It was reported that she met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il but she reportedly denied this in interviews. She has stated that the purpose of her visit was to perform at the Friendship Art Festival held in Pyongyang and to meet Korean artists.[1] She again visited North Korea in 2000 and performed for Kim Jong Il. She was asked to stay in North Korea but refused.[2]

Besides being an illusionist, she is also known as a singer, stage director, movie director, video photographer and painter.

On 24 July 2007, it was reported that she performed The Spike Illusion, but that the trick went wrong causing serious injury. After being released, she continued the show for a further thirty minutes before terminating it early due to her injuries.[3]


Princess Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, the cartoon series based on her by Saban, is centered around Princess Tenko leading a team of warriors (Bolt, Hawk, Steel and apprentice Ali) called the Guardians who tried to amass the scattered and stolen magical Starfire Gems, each of which had a special power. Standing against them were twin villains Janna and Jason, who had the power to combine into a two-headed dragon. The cartoon ran for a single season of 13 episodes from 1995-1996. At the end of each episode, the real Princess Tenko would appear on stage and perform an illusion or teach a magic trick.


  1. Interview with "Princess Tenko": Koreans Are Friendly, Have Deep Understanding of Art (2008-08-19)
  2. Japanorama, Series 3 Episode 4, BBC Three , 9 April 2007
  3. Magician injured in sword trick (2008-08-19)
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