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Noh: The T'ang Ship
From: Old Noh and Kyogen Illustrations from the Early Edo Era
Noh: The T'ang Ship

Noh masks, called omote (lit., "face") are very important props that are symbolic of Noh as a masked drama. In documents surviving from the Momoyama period, about 60 types of masks are listed, and these account for most of the masks in use even today. Most but not all shite roles require the use of a mask, but in principle the roles of kokata (child actors) and actual living men are performed without a mask. This performance style is called hita-men (lit., "direct face"), and the actor performs without expression, as though his face has become his mask. Within established limits, there are specific masks used for each type of character. The actor performing the shite role chooses the most appropriate mask based upon his idea of the subject matter and his plan for the performance.

The masks are sculpted in a way in which the real and the abstract are ingeniously joined to produce a beauty of form, and great effort has been exerted to make them conform to the actual performance. Depending upon the movements of the actor, they can cause various moods to be expressed upon the stage.

The Okina Masks
Old-man Masks
Fierce Deity Masks
Male Masks
Female Masks
Vengeful Spirit Masks
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Copyright 2004, by the Japan Arts Council. All rights reserved.