June 29, 1959
|Other names||Tenko Hikita|
|Also known as||Mari Asakaze|
Second Tenko Hikita (二代目・引田 天功, Second Generation Hikita Tenko) (born Mariko Itakura (板倉 満里子, Itakura Mariko); June 29, 1959), best known under the stage name of Princess Tenko and formerly Mari Asakaze, is a Japanese pop singer turned magician specialising in grand illusions. Besides being a singer and illusionist, she is also known as a stage director, movie director, video photographer and painter.
She was born Mariko Itakura in Arai, Niigata on June 29, 1959. At the young age, she suffered from a disease, which was said that she might not lived beyond the age of 18 years old. Fortunately she received treatment at the children's hospital in the United States and was miraculously recovered since then.
In 1976, her mother sent her to be the apprentice to the First Tenko Hikita (初代・引田 天功, First Generation Hikita Tenko), a male Japanese magician who was managed by the same person as Mariko. She made a debut as a singer-magician under a stage name of Mari Asakaze (朝風 まり, Asakaze Mari) in 1978.
The older Tenko died on December 31, 1979 at the age of 45 by heart disease. Though he had several apprentices, his sponsors chose Mariko as the 2nd Tenko. Mariko made her debut as the Second Hikita Tenko (二代目・引田 天功, Second Generation Tenko Hikita) at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on December 15, 1980. The sponsors believed that she would clear older Tenko's huge debt, a speculation which was successful.
She guest starred as herself in two Metal Hero Series: episode 29 of Uchuu Keiji Gavan and episode 24 of Choujinki Metalder. 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 Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, 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 the former 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. She again visited North Korea in 2000 and performed for Kim Jong Il. She was asked to stay in North Korea but refused.
On July 24, 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.
She was invited to attend the funeral of Kim Jong Il in December 2011, but she declined.
Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, the cartoon series based on her by Saban, is centered on 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 to 1996. At the end of each episode, the real Princess Tenko would appear on stage and perform an illusion or teach a magic trick.
- "Interview with "Princess Tenko": Koreans Are Friendly, Have Deep Understanding of Art". The People's Korea. 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-09-27. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
- Japanorama, Series 3 Episode 4, BBC Three, 9 April 2007
- "Magician injured in sword trick". BBC News. 2007-07-24. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
- "Magician declines Kim funeral invite". The Japan Times. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
- Official website (in Japanese)
- Princess Tenko on IMDb
- Yumi, Wijers-Hasegawa (February 4, 2007). "Close-up: Tenko Hikita, Princess of pure mystery". Japan Times. Retrieved January 26, 2012.