Noh mask carving

Magojiro, by Udaka Michishige
Magojiro, by Udaka Michishige

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. Various publications have documented Udaka Michishige’s achievements as mask carver: the latest, Secrets of Noh Masks (Kodansha International/Oxford University Press 2010), featuring photographs by Yamagata Shuichi, has received international praise.

Training schedule (mask carving)

Kyoto: three times a month on Thursdays, 18:00-21:00. Lessons also take place in Nagoya and 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 colors (iwa-enogu) medium, 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.

Measuring the development of a mask with a paper model

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. 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 Yugen – a harmony realized in the of the present moment – is born.

Contact us directly about class schedules and visiting a class.