Tag Archives: Noh masks

Documentary: ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’

Japanese historian and documentarist Jeffrey Dym (Sacramento State University) has recently released ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’, a full-feature documentary on noh masks. The excellent documentary explores different aspects of noh mask making and use on stage and features numerous interviews with different mask specialists and professionals, among which Udaka Keiko, daughter of Udaka Michishige. The rich materials and clear delivery of the content make this documentary particularly suitable for educational purposes.

Video: ‘The Spirit of Noh’

Singaporean cinematographer Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) just published a mini-documentary entitled ‘The Spirit of Noh’, starring Udaka Michishige. Edwin’s lens shows the beauty of noh masks (all of which were carved by Michishige himself) and costumes with extreme close-ups and slow-motion sequences, techniques rarely used in documentaries featuring noh. Check it out and let us know what you think!

‘The Spirit of Noh (能)’ – oldest drama in the world from Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) on Vimeo.

Close-up photographs of INI members’ Noh masks

This year’s Men-no-kai Noh mask carving exhibition took place at the Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture 28th-30th November. Among others three INI members, INI Senior Director Rebecca Teele Ogamo (USA), Kim Hea-Kyoung (South Korea), and Elaine Czech (USA) exhibited their latest works.

Czech carved a Ko-omote, one of the most popular Noh masks. It is also the first Noh masks that is carved by beginners. Despite its apparent simplicity, the Ko-omote is a very difficult mask to create, and mask carvers often go back to carving it later in their mastery. Ko-omote (lit. ‘small face’) is used for main or secondary roles when the character is a young girl or, in some cases, a supernatural being. Ko-omote is inspired by the aesthetic canons of the Heian period (794-1185), regarded as a golden-age of cultural sophistication and refinement. The face is painted in white, eyebrows are plucked and painted on the top of the forehead, hair is neatly combed on the sides, and teeth are dyed in black. The general feeling is that of innocent beauty.

Kim carved a Zō-onna, used for roles such as the celestial maiden of Hagoromo. As you can see from the picture, this mask shares formal similarities with Ko-omote, though it represents a more mature female visage. For example, eyebrows are thinner, the cheeks less round, and the hair on combed on the side are arranged in a different way. The ineffable beauty of this mask is more suitable for representing supernatural beings and goddesses rather than humans.

Teele Ogamo carved a Kasshiki, a mask used for roles of young temple acolyte such as in the plays Jinen-koji or Kagetsu. The bangs on the forehead represent hair that is yet to be cut before becoming a fully ordained monk. This mask is a blend of masculine features, such as the slightly bushy, pointed eyebrows, and feminine features, such as the hair combed on the sides of the face, creating an overall effect of youthful charm.

In the hi-res pictures below you can compare masks and observe details of the painting and brushing techniques that give an impression of age. Check more pictures of the event, including a costume demonstration, on our Facebook page!

Pictures from the Noh workshop at Iori Machiya

On Friday 20th November 2014 the INI held a Noh workshop for a group of twelve American visitors led by Bob Stigler, co-president of the Washington-based educational organisation New Stories. It has been a memorable day because Bob and Michishige first met some 40 years ago in Kyoto, but have not seen each other ever since. It has been particularly enjoyable to listen them sharing memories of the old days in Kyoto, and impress each other with their achievements! Udaka Michishige lead the workshop along with his sons Tatsushige and Norishige. Diego Pellecchia has helped interpreting for the participants and Elaine Czech took pictures. The workshop took place at Iori, a luxurious Kyoto-style machiya (traditional townhouse) we use regularly for our event.

As you can see in the photographs, Tatsushige and his father showed and explained the features of a number Michishige’s Noh masks. Speaking of masks, The Udaka Men-no-kai exhibition is coming up soon: don’t miss the chance to see some of these masks live if you are in Kyoto on on 28-29-30 November! Participants could also admire (and try on!) precious Noh costumes, as well as experience basic Noh movement techniques. Bob’s group has been a lovely audience – thank you so much! Everyone expressed much gratitude to Udaka Michishige and to the INI, and some participants decided to stay longer in Kyoto in order to see the Kongo school monthly performance coming up this Sunday 23rd at the Kongo Noh theatre, featuring the Noh Ikkaku sennin (‘The One-Horned Hermit’ which you can see in the picture below!).