The Commonest Con In Tokyo
The commonest con in Tokyo is still running strong. Let's try to chip away at that if we can.
Jun 8, 2012 | 2 Comments | 3,497 views

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“It’s magic” says a hand-written sign while a cardboard clown with weighted feet seems to dances freely, jumping and frolicking about. Then, the vendor (the woman with the fanny pack in this run of the hustle) points at the thing, says ‘bang’ and the clown drops dead. Suddenly, it revives again and somebody buys their own fabulous toy to take home.

This is not magic. Magic is the art of entertaining people with well-practiced psychological puzzles. This is a con. Conning is a way to make money by lying to people. So, let’s break down exactly what’s going on to avoid the proverbial parting of a fool and his/her money.

First of all, the con is being run by 2 people. The vendor is the only half the operation. Can you tell who her partner is?

Give up? It’s the lady in the dark blue dress with the hat on. 90% of the time, the second person will be wearing a hat to cover the eyes. This makes them stand out less to others.

So, why do you need two people to run this con? Because, the second person is the one controlling the dancing clown. There is a thin thread tied between Person 2 and a foreign anchor, with the clown in the middle. Tug the string and the clown dances. In this case, the anchor is their luggage.

Person 2 has her hand covered by a cloth. This is to avoid drawing attention to her hand movements as she controls the clown.

The average person interested in purchase will stay about 90 seconds before making a decision. Groups might stay longer, but nobody stays long enough to notice Person 2. Person 2 will always be there, staring slack-jawed and fascinated at the amazing little clown.

I’ve had it out for this con for a couple years, but have been waiting to publish this blog post until I got my money shot. I always catch these artists mid-con. However, today I finally arrived before set-up and got a shot of the two artists pre-performance.

So, there it is – the commonest con in Tokyo broken down. I’ve found that if you stand uncomfortably close to Person 2, they will pack up and be gone quickly. However, you should feel free to try something more explicit. If you have an umbrella, swing it at the string absent-mindedly and see how quick the illusion falls apart.












As always, thanks for reading. And, thanks double for sharing.



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  • Metropolis Media

    Just to be clear – The lie is two-fold. First, they act as though Person 1 is a merchant, not an entertainer. Second, they present the product as functioning with just one person when the performance of the trick actually requires two people.

  • guilhem

    I’ve seen that illusion performed in Dublin before, so not just a Tokyo thing. And, it is very close to prestidigitation! One of my favorite scams :)

    I saw some interesting variations, where the partner was replaced with an old style boom box, the string being moved around by the rotating CD.