Traditional Japanese masks, trendy elements for decoration, cosplays, streetwear...
Masks have been part of Japanese culture for many centuries. The masks used in traditional Noh theater allow the actor to disappear to make room for the character. To do this, the mask allows different amounts of light and dark to pass through the face, which can change the facial expression and mood of the character.
Japanese masks can also be found in traditional arts, festivals and even pop-culture (the famous Faceless Man in the sublime cartoon The Voyage of Chihiro).
Masks have had many different designs over the centuries, but five particular types are the most commonly used today. Here they are:
- Oni / Ogre masks -
It is also one of the three most frequently used masks in Noh theater. Like the wings of an angel, this mask always has 8 horns sticking out of the head. The mouth is very big and the eyes are always very small.
- Tengu masks -
The tengu mask has a long nose that bifurcates at its end. It has a mischievous smile and two small eyes. If this type of mask was mostly used in the past, it still makes an occasional appearance in Noh theater.
- Kitsune Masks -
Kitsune means "fox". The mask with two large eyes and a mischievous smile is used as the animal itself; it is not worn by an actor. Unlike most other masks, which can be used to hide one's emotions, this mask clearly shows what the fox wants: pleasure and happiness.
- Nameko masks -
This is one of the three most frequently used masks in Noh theater. Originally they were made of wood, but nowadays they are more often made of papier-mâché, leather or wood and lacquered. These masks are not very big and often do not reach the shoulders or the chin of the actor.
- Shishi/Lion masks -
This mask shows the animal's teeth, while its eyes are closed or half closed. The mouth is slightly open and always has a diagonal line that starts at the upper corner of the right cheek and ends at the lower left corner of the mouth. Sometimes it also has made-up eyebrows.
- Kyōgen masks -
Unlike other types of Noh masks, which are mostly used by male actors, these simple and funny masks depict cheerful young men. The kyōgen is a kind of interlude that is inserted between scenes in a play. Like stage makeup, kyōgen masks were used to express the actor's role and emotions. The actor would use them to show joy, sadness, or anger.