The Makyoh (Japanese for “magic mirror”) is an ancient art that can be traced back to the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC — 24 AD). They were made of metal, usually with an intricate pattern carved or cast on the back and the front polished to a mirror finish. The front looks like a smooth reflecting surface, but when sunlight or other bright light is reflected onto a wall a glowing pattern emerges. Usually the image seen would be the same as the image on the back of the mirror, often an image of the Budah or other focus for meditation. The art later moved to Japan (especially Kyoto), and after missionaries brought Christianity into Japan in the mid 1500s many mirrors were made with secret images of the Holy Cross or of Christ. Because Christianity was punished at the time, many Christians wore such magic mirror as a secret sign of their faith.
I just received a modern makyoh from the Grand Illusions toy shop, a wonderful site for exotic, clever and scientific toys (and they now accept PayPal). One thing I love about Grand Illusions is that they include videos and articles about how their toys work, including the magic mirror. Much as I respect the secrecy magicians have for their tricks, I much prefer the magic scientists perform — real magic isn’t spoiled when you know the secret, it’s even more amazing.
I’ve posted a few other pictures on my pictures page.