Showing posts with label Gintaro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gintaro. Show all posts

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gintaro- A Juggler not a Spy.

In 1908, the famous Maskelyne and Devant company of England sent a touring troupe to Australia and New Zealand. One member of the group was the famous Japanese juggler, Gintaro.

Variously referred to as  Gintaro Nizuhara,( by New Zealand newspapers in 1909)  or Gintaro Mizuhara , he was a Japanese man who had lived in England for 21 years. He was married to an English woman called Isabella and originally worked as a merchant.

Around 1900 Gintaro began working for Maskelyne and Devant, giving drawing room entertainments. He was a keen jiu jitsu practitioner and a very skillful juggler and balancer.

In Australia in 1908, Gintaro opened the Maskelyne and Devant Mysteries show. He spun a silver ring around an umbrella,  spun and balanced tops and balanced a tub on top of a pole . However, the highlight of his act was balancing a glass of water on top of 28 bricks and catching the glass as the bricks tumbled to the floor.

There is a 1930s video of Gintaro performing this feat on youtube, and you can see some of Gintaro's juggling props here

After a successful tour of Australia, the company, with Gintaro, travelled to New Zealand in early 1909. Whilst they were there a scandal erupted in Australia regarding some Japanese showmen.

The Australian Defence minister was travelling in Queensland when he was accosted by some stock men and told a tale about a group of suspicious Japanese itinerant performers who had been asking very detailed questions whilst they entertained at stations in the top end.

Apparently the men had toured with a cinematograph and not only took pictures, but asked several questions about the location of stations, waterholes, tracks and other landmarks. The showman were accused by squatters, the minister, the stock men and the newspapers of being spies in the pay of the Japanese government.

At this time, insular Australia had experienced little contact with Asian cultures and anybody who was even a little different in looks, language or attitude was suspect.  There was a completely unjustified fear of an 'Asian invasion' of Australia and  a type of hysteria over everyday acts was common throughout the land.

The undoubtedly racist attitude was also common in New Zealand, and this particular incident sparked a complaint about Gintaro's activity in that country.

Gintaro kept a diary, and he supplemented it with pictures of all the places he played. Thus it was when the Maskelyne and Devant company arrived in Gisborne, a port in New Zealand, he, accompanied by company manager Mr McDonald, had taken photos of the port and some of the ships in it.

To his surprise, his innocent photography expedition  led to a letter being sent to a local paper.
The author, anonymous of course, accused Gintaro of being a spy. The newspaper breathlessly reported that half an hour after the arrival of the SS Tuatea, Gintaro was spotted, 'perched on the small crane on the breakwater, taking photographs, up and down and across the river.'

Gintaro, a man who had lived most of his life in England, was forced to give an interview to defend his actions.

'I think it is a most childish thing to say' he told a newspaper. He added  that pictures of the port and town were readily available at local shops. Gintaro asserted that his business was that of a juggler and if he was spy he wouldn't be using a camera where everybody could see it.

The newspaper asked him about an 'Asiatic invasion' and Gintaro replied that Japan was England's 'great friend' and would most certainly aid New Zealand if such a thing occurred.

Gintaro concluded the interview with a broad smile and stated that

20 pound a week for entertaining was far ahead of what the Japanese Government would give any person for travelling round taking photographs...and that they (English speaking people) could rest assured that he would do or say nothing that would offer them the slightest insult.

Gintaro completed his tour of New Zealand without any further accusations of spying. But the incident was an example of attitudes which he must have encountered throughout his long and successful juggling career. 

Picture Reference

 Japanese juggler, M Gintaro, and his wife Isabella. Cox, Irene:Portraits of theatrical personalities. Ref: PA1-q-235-120A. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.