On Tuesday, July 27, 1875, Skaneateles hosted a performance of the Royal Japs, a.k.a. The Royal Yeddo Japanese, who took an evening off from their engagement in Auburn to entertain the village. Led by Gangero, Prince of Tismah, late Director of Amusements to the Mikado of Japan and “the greatest sleight of hand artist in the world,” the troupe of jugglers, conjurors, acrobats, equilibrists, magicians and top-spinners “delighted their audience in Skaneateles… eliciting thunders of applause.” At just 50 cents per couple, or 35 cents for a single ticket, it was surely a good value.
While the newspapers in Skaneateles and Auburn didn’t go into detail about the performance, reports from other cities give us a good idea of what the villagers saw. A Brooklyn reporter listed members of the troupe: “Yara Keku, the Japanese Beauty, the only female performer ever allowed to leave Japan; Que Taro, whose thrilling performances on the bamboo and inclined rope pronounce him the leading Balancer of the World; Tommy Taro, the Anatomical Wonder, a living enigma, unsolved by the medical fraternity, and Kushne Taro, the human Spider, a mystery to all.”
And another writer described the acts themselves:
“Boxes of various sizes are piled in diminuendo style, one on the other until a pyramid is made, and on the top of this Tommy Taro balances himself and goes though the performance of wiping his mouth with his toes and tying himself up in knots which contortionists love to exhibit to an approving audience.
“The bamboo act is a peculiarly Japanese performance. The great Gangero holds a pole forty odd feet long perpendicularly on the stage. Up this pole, with monkey-like ability, climbs Que Taro, a Japanese of rank, barefooted. When a little above the middle, Que Taro holds on to the pole by the toes and Gangero, lifting it, balances it first on the pit of his stomach and then on his shoulder. The evolutions of the climber at an end, the pole is lowered and he descends.
“The other feats, the box and bottle balancing, the mammoth screen act and the magic and disappearing balls are not dangerous, but they are puzzling and full of interest.”
And in Auburn, the night after their Skaneateles appearance, Que Taro walked up to the ceiling of the Academy of Music on a slack rope. I’m sorry I missed it.
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The advertisement above is from a Syracuse newspaper on the occasion of the Royal Yeddo Japs’ appearance at the Wieting Opera House in 1877.