Folklore Thursday: Theatre of Dreams – Japanese Noh Masks

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Noh is an intimate form of Japanese traditional theatre that dates back to at least the 14th Century. Though generally light on props, Noh does however utilise masks to a large degree. As many Noh stories deal with supernatural themes, Kishin (demon) and Onryō (ghost) masks are prevalent.
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The Hannya mask above represents a woman who turned into a demon. It is a familiar mask to those who have seen Kaneto Shindo’s classic 1964 film Onibaba.
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This mask ^ is representative of Hashihime, a woman who fearing she had been abandoned by her lover drowned herself and became a jealous and dangerous spirit.
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Namanari is a creature midway between human and demon. Their corrupting element may be a desire for sexual revenge.
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Kitsune are trickster fox spirits that can transform into human form. Though in Japanese lore some foxes were sly goblin figures, others were the messangers of the Shinto spirit Inari.

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The Ushi-Oni or Gyūki are bovine like demons that although are sometimes said to attack people are represented as protective spirits at the Uwajima summer festival.
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Tengu are part bird-part human. They generally dwell in mountainous or forested regions where they may be considered protective spirits, but in some lore they are considered warlike beings.
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The name Daikijin literally translates as Great Devil God but they may be utilised at village ceremonies as protector spirits.

All images © Inoue Corporation
Click on a mask image above to purchase or visit Here to browse and buy other items available in the Noh mask collection.

 

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