I was fortunate to be able to join two friends to see a fantastic exhibit of Noh masks. Noh is a form of Japanese theater which orginated in the 14th century. It combines music, dance, and drama. The dual art of Noh and Kyogen, comical pieces which are performed during breaks in the main Noh performance, are listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The shite or main character in the performance wears a mask to tell the audience what kind of character is being portrayed.
This exhibition contained 50 masks and the mask artist was on site to explain it to us.
The masks are made from blocks of Japanese cypress which are grown in the shade of other trees. He told us it takes about two months to carve each mask and explained the entire process, including coloring and hair. The mask insides are created so the sweat will drip out from the chin and not through the nose holes which could damage the face of the mask. The demon masks have brass eyes to reflect the stage lights and make them look scarier.
The masks were arranged by characters. The first set are the comedy masks.
Next are the Demons
This exhibit was fabulous. Now, I want to see a Noh performance!