1. Experience Making A Noh Mask

Experience Making A Noh Mask

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Kanae Nakahama

Lived in the States for ten years. Now living near a famous sightseeing area; Arashiyama, for more than 15 years. Watching people and feeling the culture in two countries made another point of view for me.

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Experience Making A Noh Mask


Are you familiar with Noh Theater? The answer to this question might be “no”. However, even though people who don’t know Noh theater well, people might have seen a Noh mask once in their life. There are places in Kyoto to experience making Noh Mask and this is a sentence about experiences making a Noh Mask.





■ What’s A Noh Mask?


Before making a Noh mask, I would like to introduce easily what a Noh mask is. First of all, a Noh mask is used in Noh theatre. This is a Japanese traditional theatrical form and it is one of the oldest theatrical forms in the world. A Noh mask is used by Noh performers who are the storytellers. The performers use their visual appearances, movements and the Noh mask to tell the story. In Momoyama period, about sixty basic types of Noh masks existed, but recently there are about two-hundred and fifty types of Noh masks and it is still now increasing.





■ Kitazawa Style,  Master Kitazawa Genpaku


Mr.Kitazawa Genpaku is the representative of the Kitazawa Style Noh Mask Associative. Mr. Genpaku is the son of Mr.Kitazawa Nyoi; the top of modern Noh Mask master in Japan. Mr.Genpaku is approaching to young people how attractive Noh Mask is, by blending traditional culture art and modern art. He has also held shows at Kennin-ji Temple and different art museums.





■ Rough Process Chart


By taking time and carving the block of wood, it comes closer to the Noh Mask we know. The block of wood are mainly hinoki.





■ Understanding About The Wood And The Tools


The first step was to understand how to use the tools safely by carving a little circle.






There are directions to carve easily. When you need power to carve, it meant it was carved in the wrong direction. This was a good exercise to understand how to use the tools safely.






This is the final appearance of the practice.






If you get used carving, the second step was making five globes out from the block. The final step was carving a donut out from the block.





■ Carving a face


After making a rough shape of the face, now it was time to start carving a Noh Mask.






These are patterns using for the Noh mask.






The brick is only rough made. By putting the patterns on the block, it was understandable of the gap between the block and the pattern.






As you can see, there are gaps between the block and the pattern.






The next step was marking the places that are touching each other. By marking, it was easier to understand where to carve.






Repeating this work, the block becomes near to the Noh mask.





■ Tools In The Proper Place


All tools have proper places. That was the difficult part to understand, where which tool was correct to use. However, Mr. Kitazawa was so kind he explained why the tools should be in the proper places.






The first reason was because, the tools have reasons why the tools are in that shape. For example, this tool is used for places to carve details. It is easier to carve if you use the proper tools. Using the proper tool is safer and easier carving when you carve, was the second reason.






There are other points to be careful. In this photograph, there is a point you should be careful when carving a Noh Mask. Can you notice?

The answer is the inclination of the patterns axis. When you mark it by pencil, if the axis is inclined, it changes the expression of the face. Few millimeters changes the everything. This is the another point to pay attention when carving.





■ The Difference Of Only Few Millimeters


These are the Noh mask Mr.Kitazawa showed to me. According to Mr.Kitazawa, these Noh mask are made by the same pattern.






However, by carving only few millimeters different the expression of the faces change.






On another occasion, a Noh mask carver is a delicate occupation. They purposely change the few millimeters in intention to make the difference of the expression on the face.





■ By Experiencing Making A Noh Mask


It took three hours to carve until here. By carving, there were couple things to realize. As you can see, carving a Noh mask is not an easy thing. Technique is an important skill to have, but more than technique confronting with conscientiousness was needed. During carving, I was able to meet face to face by myself. I thought this was another type of Zen meditation. Maybe some time absorbed carving the Noh mask might be a meaningful experience to have.


Embark on a journey through the heart of traditional Japanese culture, starting with the ceremonial elegance of the Hochoshiki Knife ceremony, a ritual that epitomizes the artistry and precision of Japanese craftsmanship. This experience serves as a gateway to the deeper realms of cultural practices, leading you to the serene art of Noh mask making. In the hands of master artisans, learn how a simple block of wood is transformed into an expressive Noh mask, each carving stroke a testament to the timeless beauty of Japanese traditions.


A sacred place for Japanese food, a treasure house of ingredients, Minami-Boso Takaya Shrine Kitchen knife ceremony "Ryumon-no-Koi" long story: edited by Minamiboso City Tourism Association Channel

■ Classes Of Kitazawa Style Noh Mask



Kitazawa Genpaku




Adaptable. Call to confirm.

   There are classes in Higashiyama (main office), Yase, Arashiyama and Uji.

Mr. Kitazawa teaches ONLY the Higashiyama Class


¥Free Noh Mask experience class

Classes to make a full Noh Mask coasts different.

Men ¥5000 / 1 month

Woman ¥3000 / 1 month

+ ¥5000 for the materials (for making one Noh Mask)