April 16, 2014
A Japanese busker who has mesmerised Hay Street Mall audiences for a year now with his transparent, ‘floating’ ball has let InkWire in on a few trade secrets.
Kohei Hiroshige creates an illusion that a crystal-like ball is floating in air and leaves the audience wondering if what he does is magic or merely a trick.
Hailing from Yokahama, Hiroshige dresses in a beanie, shirt and Aladdin-inspired pants.
To the soothing sound of meditative music, he performs what is known as ‘contact ball’ or ‘contact juggling’.
Hiroshige rolls a transparent ball or balls over his body and hands without tossing them into the air.
Other tricks include the self-explanatory palm spinning, and ‘isolations’ which generate the illusion of a floating ball.
The ball is made out of acrylic material which many onlookers confuse for crystal.
“If it [were] made from crystal, I think I can’t buy it, really scared of dropping,” Hiroshige says.
There are two variations to contact ball. The first incorporates finger movements to create a floating effect which Hiroshige describes as “floating method”.
The goal is to coax the onlooker into believing the ball is suspended in air while Hiroshige’s fingers gradually start to part from the transparent sphere as if repelled by some magnetic force.
After this affect is achieved, Hiroshigei’s fingers fluidly retract back and the ball is seemingly glued back to his fingertips.
Nicole Lam, 19, who has just watched the performance describes it as “mysterious”.
“It got hold of my attention while I was walking around and stopped to take a look,” Ms Lam says.
Hiroshige explains that timing is important for the trick’s illusion to take place.
“How long people watch this movement is … important, like if I do it for 10 seconds or 15 seconds, people will just realise I’m grabbing the ball,” he says.
“So maybe maximum time is three seconds or something like that.”
His second variation – which he calls the “contact method” – involves body movement where the ball is rolled around upper limbs and other parts of his body.
Hiroshige says concentration and maintaining eye contact with the audience is important when performing the contact method.
“Some movements I need concentration but eye contact with audience is also important,” he says.
“Actually, it is like a conversation to the audience.
“I think [it] is like making [the] audience more moved.”
Hiroshige says he is constantly on the move, either cycling or camping out.
“When I cook my dinner, usually I cook soup or … pasta,” he says.
“Sometimes I have to wait .. until [the meal] boil[s] or something, and I practice during that time.”
Hiroshige has performed before crowds in Singapore and Thailand, and now wants to busk in different places such as Europe.
Before becoming a street entertainer, he spent two years perfecting the art of contact ball after first being introduced to the act by a YouTube video.
In Hungary, where he had been traveling around, he met a Japanese contact ball practitioner who had introduced him to the finer details of the act.
And the rest is mystery.
Photography: Israel Nai