Noh Mask Dimension  
− Mitsue Nakamura’s Essay

“Patterns” Once again

June 3, 2014

These days, the numbers of person who create Noh mask as their hobby are increasing. I am not sure on the total number throughout our nation, but as the number of the Noh mask creators has increased, more and more number of the Noh masks has been created by them. I am pleased to know this situation, but I have worries that the quality of the Noh mask has been deteriorated due to massive production.    

In the world of plastic arts, learners ought to learn to observe the art itself and cultivate their own aesthetic consciousness rather than learning it by words. In short, all you need is to see the Noh mask in front of your eyes.
It is impossible to learn Noh mask just to see other things.  

If you do not have an excellent Noh mask in front of your eyes, which is served as good model, even though how many years you have been creating Noh mask, you will not get the true nature of it. It is a tragedy, indeed. I am worrying that if the Noh masks, which were not yet reached the true nature, are the ones remaining and handing over to the next generation, in the end, people might lose the eyes to distinguish true from fake and aesthetic consciousness, either.
Let me to show you one example.

(Photo: Photo book “Nohmenfuushi (Noh mask figures)” , Mr. Teruo Amachi )  

This is a photo of “Jyo” mask. To face upwards, it look upside, to face down, it look downside. It sounds quite normal, doesn’t it? No, it is not a normal thing. It is a result from a great invention. If Noh mask has created just as same as human face, it will never change the facial expression as such. As a trial, you try to look upside just as same as the Noh mask picture above. Then, look downside but keep your eyes not moving. No matter how you try to bend your head, your eyes are impossible to see downside.
In short, the eyes of the Noh masks can move.

More precisely, when you turn the face of the Noh Mask upwards, the mask will look little bit upper than the actual angle, on contrary, when you turn its face downwards, it will look little bit below. This is exactly as the same movement of the eyes and neck of the human when they look something.    


“Patterns” once again - 2

August 23, 2014

“Not the person will see, but the Noh mask is the one to see.” That was what Mr. Iwao Kongo said in his writing to explain the beauty of the shape of the snow Koomote
“Definitely, the audience will turn their eyes wherever the Noh mask may see.”
It was a great invention found by the Noh mask craftsman already several hundred years ago.
It is the shape of the Noh mask to be proud since it's unlike any other mask in the world.

However, not all Noh mask is created as such. There are a lot of exceptions such as the Noh mask category of Kishin, primitive shapes of Noh mask, or the masks that are not required for the subtle facial expression change.
In addition, high skill is needed for the craftsman to carve delicate female Noh mask.
It means that not all female Noh mask will change the facial expression.
This is why Mr. Kongo was proud of the snow koomote mask and many people were looking for the reproduction of snow koomote.     

When I learned how to curve this mask by my master, Mr. Yasuemon Hori, I used to change its direction and stare it in the mirror all through the night. It was the moment of deeply impressed.


In this sense, honestly I feel insecure about how much degree this technique has been recognized.

The study of this theme has completed by Mr. Masaaki Nishida at the beginning of Showa period. He published precise article anything more than that. In his article, he explained the elaboration of the mouth shape in detail. It is impossible to learn only by instructions and the technique should not be concealed. I presume, however, the majority of the Noh craftsmen at present do not have any recognition about this. I have doubt that there is no recognition for the craftsman, who is teaching how to create Noh mask.      

As the explanation of "Shining-Clouding" means "Joy and Sorrow" became popular, the look of the mask itself has been absorbed in the expression.
In short, the change of the look has been underestimated.

-to be continued to the later essay-


“Patterns” once again - 3

October 23, 2014

It is a quite finely thing to talk about, but the muscles of facial expression are the one to make facial expression. Eyes are serving to see things.
The U-shaped description of Koomote lips leads people to misunderstanding. A massive number of Koomote mask, lifting the corner of the Mask mouth, may be created.

We should not be confused with the description of: “Noh mask with asymmetrical and movement.” When you compare it with the other masks in the world, Noh mask has the strong tendency of fine-featured and symmetrical. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Yasuo Nakamura is the first person who raised the objection to those groups who have belief to create Noh mask precisely symmetrical without causing any difference in the left and right side of its face.

The Noh actors are not the specialist of the plastic arts, hence it is natural for them to distinguish the Noh mask quality by using their own senses. I sincerely hope for them to deepen their understandings to preserve and pass to the next generation the true beauty of the Noh mask.

It is the Noh actors’ duty to distinguish the excellent Noh mask from indiscriminate mixture of the mask regardless of old or new masks. Under current circumstance, less and less people have their eyes for Noh mask aside from limited experts. An overwhelming numbers of the mask with no eye movement have been created and being used in the world of Noh. I am worry that real Noh masks may be lost from our sight.


November 12, 2012

“Artists to create, craftsmans to complete.”
I came up to this thought after I devoted myself to create Noh mask for a long time.

In one point in time, the person who was blessed with his talent created an excellent Noh mask.
In later years, the craftsman with perfect skill would copy the Noh mask.
That is the time, when the “pattern” as Noh mask has been completed with the sense of refinement and adoption added by the craftsman.

In this sense, the completed “Pattern” made by copying, naturally includes the weakness of vitality inside.

The Noh mask created by the person with excellent talent with has the freehearted spirit. On the other hand, for the Noh mask, which is the imitation of the excellent Noh mask, careful attention is stretched around in every detail of the Noh mask but it lost the spirit. It can be applied for the more and more perfect reproduction, I believe.
What I am worrying about is, upon the completion of the style, at the same time, it means that we take a step forward to degeneration.

“Crafting skill - 2”

June 25, 2008

Lips have strong degree of curvedness.
In fact, they have considerable depth. Because of this, the small mouth seeing from the front of the mask looks wider when the mask moves slightly.
It looks as if the integration of the two mouths into one - one is slightly open and the other is pulling tightly to the back.
The eyes and mouth of the Noh mask is an inclusive form of the movements.
It is mysterious why such a deformed shape looks beautiful and graceful.
However, Noh masks acquired the graceful beauty even though they were deformed as such, I believe that that is the most prominent aspect of the Noh masks.

“Crafting skill”

March 10, 2008

This mask “Manbi” looks downward-looking when viewing from its side, but when we look at it from front view, its eyes are facing front.
This formation gives subtle but great effect.
By tilting the mask subtly to the downside, its eyes turn looking downside.
When we see our hands, we tilt our neck and look downwards. The Noh masks are moving just as same as our moves.

By tilting the mask slightly, the bottom lines of the almond-shaped eyes will perceive the eyes are looking downward.
On the other hand, just tilting the mask slightly up, the bottom lines of the eyes will turn into gentle mountain-shaped lines.

That is to say, the art formation of Manbi, is integrated with the carving of the down-ward looking and facing front eyes. This “formation that includes the movement”, indeed, is hidden and the most important art for the carving of the Noh masks.


July 15, 2007

Is the delicacy of the Noh mask came from the weakness of the vital force?
Supposing that the land with warm climate blessed by the four seasons forms the characters of the people, literally our soil is the one created the Noh masks.
There used to be a lifestyle, which is to love the season's transition, leave their life to nature, and make a harmonious accord to the nature.

It has been told the people’s life in Western culture whose faith is monotheistic, battled against wild nature and conquer it; vice versa, Japanese life, who believe in many gods and goddesses, opted to coexist with nature and became nature-oriented.


October 5, 2006

The Noh masks have a history for 600 years. However, it does not mean that it took 600 years to completely and finalized the image format. The whole image setup might be completed prior 600 years ago. The mystery of their existence brings us into a maze.
I cannot help myself admiring when I turned the pages of picture book and suddenly I came across to a “perfected” Noh mask, which is used in the present Noh stages just right after the page of the barbaric ethnic mask.
Is there any way we can find the missing link that will fill the gaps between these the masks?
Besides, it may be interesting to mention, but the Noh mask artisans know the great development as such could be happen just inside of a person.


April 1, 2006

Masks are telling us the distinctions of the each ethnic group – not only the external form but also the spiritual inside.
Compare to the group of the masks abroad, which have full of energy, Noh masks are quite delicate, with a respected dignity embodied for them as well.
The Noh masks are not willingly to be broadened and they condense into the beauty that came from by concealing their emotions.
If Japanese these days are no longer feel the indecisiveness to Noh masks, we may already be foreigners.


October 1, 2005

The facial expression of the Noh mask has changes.

By the lights and angles, the movements of the actors and the hidden skill of the carving, changes delicately, but sometimes ragingly.

The female Noh masks with gentle facial expression show us the subtle changes by leaning slightly. It is often said that they change the mask facial expression by facing up for smiling and sadness when the mask face down. However the changes are not limited as such. In the Noh play, there is a story and an actor. The female mask shows sometimes her madness or cleverness and in other occasion, she looks far distance with boundlessly. The secret of the changes are hidden in the formatives of the Noh masks.

The Noh mask with strong facial expression changes its facial expression ragingly by lights and angles.

Hashihime turns into;
An incarnation of the somber-looking woman walking on the bridge on the Noh stage,
A jealous monster as she stands at the head of the husband; and a woman feeling emotional overwrought with the impulsion of giving her romantic rival a hearty whack.
Can you imagine those scenes on those pictures with the facial expressions of Hashihime changes in three ways?