Japanese Mask - Meaning and Types of Japanese Masks
Japanese masks are used traditionally in theater, festivals or rituals. They are connected to folk myths and tails. Masks represent people, creatures,
devil, ghosts, and animals.
Some of the Japanese traditional masks are Gigaku, Bugaku, Gyodo, Tengu, Kappa, Noh, Kyōgen, Shinto, Kagura, Kitsune, Hyottoko, Oni, Kabuki, Samurai, Kendo
and Animegao masks.
In early days, in the classical performances, male actors played both female and male roles.
are the oldest masks, used in dance drama art form, but this dance art form doesn't exist today. They represented a face of superhuman, demon, lion, bird
and were made from wood.
are old masks of dance drama art form. They had moveable jaws.
represents Buddhist figures. It is used for outdoor Buddhist processions.
represents bird-like protector of sacred forests and mountains. It looks like a human with a big nose.
represents river monster that can attack swimmers. This creature can challenge a man to sumo wrestling match.
Noh is classical Japanese musical drama based on tales from traditional literature. The actors tell a story through gestures and appearance in masks. They
capture the essence of the story. The Hannya mask, best known Noh mask, represents jealous female demon in noh and kyōgen
Japanese traditional theater plays and Shinto Kagura ritual dances. The mask has a learing mouth, sharp teeth, metallic eyes and two sharp devil-like
horns. The expression of Hannya mask is at the same time demonic, frightening, dangerous and tormented, sad, angry, heartbreaking, sorrowful and
melancholic. Hannya appear as normal female, but when she is betrayed, get angry and jealous she turns into a demon.
is a form of traditional Japanese comic performance in the theater. It was performed as an intermission between Noh acts.
is an ethnic religion in Japan, and it focuses on ritual practices. Kagura is a type of Shinto theatrical dance, and it consists of ritual dances in
villages in a harvest festival. One of the dances is lion dance that represents mimic and movement of a lion in a lion costume. It consists of a wooden
head. The whole costume, including mask, can be manipulated by one or two persons. The mask can have horns to look like a beast.
is a mask of a fox. In Japanese culture, Fox has contradictory behavior. It can be benevolent (good) or malevolent (evil) depending on the situation. In
Shinto religion, Fox is a messenger of the god Inari, who is the protector of rice, agriculture, and fertility. Fox brings rich harvest, and it is a symbol
represents a lucky mythical spirit with a clown-like funny face. Okame is the female version and represents goddess who spreads good fortune.
represents demon with comical or fearsome expression. This creature is easy to scare away.
is modern theater art form. Classical masks are replaced by painted faces and make-up. This form uses all kind of techniques, like actors attached to wires
and “fly”, upward or downward moving part of sets and revolving stage. Rice powder is used to create a white base for make-up. Make-up is used to
exaggerate and enhance facial lines. Purple lines represent nobility. Green lines represent supernatural. Red lines represent passion, hedonism, and other
positive things. Blue or black lines represents jealousy, villainy, and other negative things.
In ancient Japan, Samurai was a warrior who protected nobility. Samurai mask was added to the armor to protect head and face of samurai
and to strike terror into the enemies. These masks were custom made to reflect the personality of each samurai.
is attached to the shoulder and throat armor. Kendo is a martial art of sword fighting with bamboo swords.
represent manga and anime characters.