Noh mask carving

Mask Carving

Students in Udaka Keiko‘s mask carving classes in Kyoto, and Tokyo learn to carve high quality masks that can be used in performance. Every two years a group mask exhibition is held in Kyoto to show the latest results of students efforts. These mask exhibitions include free-standing displays of some masks, performance pictures, costumes and lecture-demonstrations to promote a deeper understanding of the role of masks in noh.

Training schedule: Kyoto: three times a month on Thursdays, 18:00-21:00. Lessons also take place in Tokyo. Please contact us for lesson dates.

Lesson Fees: Regular: 15,000yen/month. Student: 10,000yen/month. Registration fee (one-off): 10,000yen. Special plans are available. Contact us for more information. In addition, participants are required to purchase tools and materials (10 chisels + 1 block of hinoki Japanese cypress + 1 set of katagami paper models = around 50,000yen).

Noh masks are carved from Japanese cypress (hinoki) using traditional chisels and templates and finished with the crushed shell powder (gofun), animal glue (nikawa), and mineral pigments (iwa-enogu), the same materials used in traditional Japanese painting (nihonga). It takes between eight months to a year to complete the process of sculpting and painting a noh mask. While the noh masks are generally copies (utsushi) of traditional works, the carver always strives to discover and re-create the essence of the original mask. This requires not only technical skill but an understand and appreciation of noh itself. Through subtle nuances of carving and coloring discovered and developed through years of training and experience, the power of the masks is brought to life. A good mask is a medium for projecting emotion to an audience over a considerable physical distance. The proper modeling of the back of the mask facilitates the projection of the voice. Ultimately, a noh mask’s true beauty and character are realized when an actor wearing it on stage successfully unites intention, Chant, and movement. When these conditions are fulfilled, a state of yūgen – a harmony realized in the of the present moment – is born.