A Japanese American magician changed the name of his show this week after a backlash over his use of the slur j*p in the show’s title, reports the Mercury News.
The J*p Box at the Marsh in Berkeley, California is now A Box without a Bottom.
David Hirata became inspired to produce the show after learning about Namigoro Sumidagawa, a magician and first Japanese visitor to the United States in 1866. His trick of using a bottomless box became a favorite among White magicians in the U.S. who quickly co-opted the trick as their own while doing it in yellowface.
The “J” word remains a sensitive one for many Japanese Americans.
“The Berkeley Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (Berkeley JACL) is deeply offended by the title of your show, “The J*p Box,” wrote the group’s board of directors to both Hirata and the Marsh. It revives a hateful racist slur that causes deep pain for us and recalls a tragic period within the living memory of our community, when 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes during WWII because of racial hatred, war hysteria and greed.”
Authorities sent Hirata mother to Tule Lake during World War II, so he is well aware of the history of Japanese Americans in incarceration camps.
“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused,” Hirata wrote when announcing the name change. He said he consulted with his parents before deciding on the original name and realized it might be controversial. “They agreed that the title was provocative, but that the use of the “J” word in reference to a specific object gave it context. As they had been members of Nisei and Sansei communities during World War II (Mom’s family was incarcerated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center), I valued their input. ”
However he took full responsibility for his decision and apologized.
“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused. While I do believe in the power of confronting ugly history and language through art, the story told by the show is a kind of personal meditation on cultural identity. And, though I have a real connection with the account of the Soko-nashi Bako, the raw pain of the “J word” is not my story to tell. The pain caused in the Japanese-American community by the title was real and something I regret. I felt that making a title change with my apologies was the appropriate action. “
A Box without a Bottom runs through December 1.
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