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  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Hannya
    Noh Mask: Hannya

    The Hannya "devil" mask expresses the violent anger and distress of a woman whose love and trust have been betrayed, turning her into a raging, revengeful female demon. The two horns protruding from disorderly hair evince diabolic malevolence, and the upper lip, tense and pointed in the center like a snake's, and the glinting of the metal eyes and teeth effectively add to her menace. This mask is attributed to the monk Hannya, who is said to have lived in Nara during the Muromachi period and to have originated this type of mask. A lesser form of the hannya mask is the Namanari mask.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Uba
    Noh Mask: Uba

    Uba, the mask of an old woman, is used primarily in Takasage, a play in which an old woman and her husband represent the spirits of two pine trees. On his way to the capital, Tomonari, a Shinto priest from he shrine of Aso in Kyushu, rests beneath the pines along the shore at Takasago in Harima Province. The old couple appear and sweep beneath the pines. They tell the priest of two aged pines, one here in Takasago and the other at Sumiyoshi in Settsu Province and of their auspicious associations. Tomonari goes to Sumiyoshi in the second half of the play, and a deity appears and performs a god dance. The Uba mask came to be also used for the roles of ordinary old women in other Noh plays. Typically, the eyes are carved as they are for the mask of a blind person. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Ko-ushi
    Noh Mask: Ko-ushi

    Old man mask worn during Noh performance.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Usobuki
    Noh Mask: Usobuki

    Kyogen, the comic drama in which such subjects as old tales and the problems of real peopple are treated with humorous actions and witty dialogue, uses some masks, though the number of mask types is much mor limited than for Noh. In contrast to the serious quality of Noh masks, those for Kyogen are characterized by their humorous nature, with amused expressions, or by deliberate exaggeration and distortion. Usobuki represents the latter type. The name implies several possible meanings, including to feign innocence, to whistle, or to shape the mouth as though blowing a fire. The mask is worn by both human characters and the spirits of fragile creatures such as the moth, mosquito, or cicada. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Okina
    Noh Mask: Okina

    Expressing the joyful face of an old man, the Okina mask is worn by the main character of the liturgical Noh piece of the same name. Okina, a prayer for peace throughout the land, a rich harvest, and prosperity, occupies a special place in the Noh repertoire. Consisting mostly of ritual dancing and chanting, with no dramatic plot, its structure is totally different from other Noh plays. Its origins predate the Muromachi period when Noh was perfected. The hinged jaws of the Okina mask are a feature found also on pre-Noh dance masks; the bushy eyebrows and treatment of the eyes also distinguish this from other Noh masks. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Koomote
    Noh Mask: Koomote

    One of the earliest Noh masks to be developed, Koomote represents the countenance of a calm young woman, her neatly arranged hair parted in the middle, with three loose, but not overlapping, strands on either side. Ko (small), the first Japaanese character of the two that form the word koomote, suggests the youth, freshness and charm embodied in this mask. Reflecting the standard of beauty from the Heian period on, the oval face is full, with eyebrows shaved and repainted high on the wide forehead. The teeth are blackened (ohaguro), with a paste made of powdered iron filings and gall nuts steeped in vinegar or tea; this was a cosmetic fashion adopted by young women on coming of age. Although Koomote represents a general character type, subtle differences among masks are apparent. Some emphasize youthful freshness, some refinement, some a delicately erotic charm. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Noh

    The actor Umewaka Rokuro leads a busy life, reviving ancient Noh plays, presenting new Noh productions and performing overseas.

  • Thumbnail for Rampei Monogurui
    Rampei Monogurui

    One scene in Rampei Monogurui (Rampei Goes Insane). Here the main character, Rampei (played by Onoe Shoroku), fights with his enemies. Traditionally, Kabuki skills are passed from older members of a family of actors to the younger members, down through the generations. But in 1969, the National Theater established the Kabuki Actor Taining Center to teach aspiring performers from outside the Kabuki world as well. The training program lasts two years and is free. A few participants join every second year, and after they graduate, they are eligible for a role on the Kabuki stage. Almost all of the actors shown here graduated from the Kabuki Actor Training Center.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Shikami
    Noh Mask: Shikami

    Shikami is one of the demon masks. His threatening expression, with scoowling eyes and bared fanglike teeht, well conveys his ferocity. Furrows are intensified with red and, as was often done in Noh demon masks to manifest rage, the eyes are highlighted in gold. - Matsushima Ken