Noh Masks Six Basic Types
Okina Masks • This type is only used for the piece called "Okina", performed in the New Year or for special occasions.
Hakushiki-jō This okina mask was used in prayers and celebrations. It has a soft smile of the deity symbolising the country and the world at peace, bountiful harvests, long lives, and prosperity of the current and the future generations.
Kokushiki-jō This okina mask has smiling eyes, swirling wrinkles on the cheeks, and hinged lower jaw. The mask itself is a painted black. It is the best choice for using in prayers for the country and the world at peace, and bountiful harvests.
Enmei-kaja The mask has a sunny face that looks as if Okina has got some years younger, and makes people blessed with its happy look suitable for the celebrative play. Although you cannot see in this picture, it has a black beard indicating youthfulness.
Jo Masks • Masks portraying elder people are called Jō-men (Jō masks). They are distinguishable by their hair, and generally worn by the leading actors in Part One in waki-nō (god plays) or shura-nō (warrior plays), in which they play incarnate spirits.
Ishiōjō HyōeIshiō, the ishiōjō mask is used in the soft dances of aged deities and to represent the spirit of ancient trees. The mask is characterized by its long face and large, downward-looking and introspective eyes. The ishiōjō mask conveys a quiet dignity and reserved air.
Sanko-jo Numbers of deep lines on its cheeks and across its forehead build up an appearance of a commoner, portraying a powerful fisherman struggling with a rough sea, a stout farmer working under the blazing sun, or an uncouth lower-grade samurai.
Asakura-jō The appearance of this jo mask is rustic, with hair under the nose and lower lip, as well as on the chin, and somewhat lacking in dignity, with features that give the impression of a commoner. It is used for soldiers in Shura-nō (warrior plays), or old farmers, fishermen, or woodmen played by leading actors in Part One of plays before the appearance of incarnations of military commanders or other spirits.
Mai-ko-jō Mai means a dance; therefore the mask is used for elderly leading characters who dance in plays. It is a variation of Ko-jō that has a flavour of Mai-jō. Mai-ko-jō is as graceful as Mai-jō is, and worn by leading actors in Part Two of the pieces, in which they play elderly characters who perform a slow dance (jo-no-mai) or a very slow and solemn one
Omoni-akujō This mask portrays a revengeful ghost of an old gardener, who loved a wife of the Emperor seen through a hedge and died of indignation after being teased by her. The play “Koi-no-omoni” ardently describes an old man's afflicting feelings of love, his rapture with a good answer from the lady, his enthusiasm for the love, and his despair and grudge after being teased. The mask has saucer eyes staring at people, and a wide open mouth that seems to say bitter things.
Otoko Masks • Depending on roles' social positions or situations in plays, performers choose masks from various types of Otoko-men.
Chūjō It gives us a feeling of sophisticated and educated nobleman with grace and elegance, who has a taste of poetry. The knitted and sunken blows produce a sorrowful mood
It is exclusively used in the piece called "Yoroboshi". In the play, a man of the powerful clan, Saemon-no-jōMichitoshi, believes a slander against his son Shuntoku-maru, and expels him. As Shuntoku-maru has been shocked by his father's treatment and has had a hard and sorrowful time, he becomes blind.
Heida The sunburnt face of the warrior who has spent days in battlefields; the wide opened round eyes; the dignified appearance of the firm cheeks; the strong eyebrows and the thick moustache; every expressive feature of the mask gives you an impression of an energetic warrior.
Onna Masks • Onna-men (Onna masks) is the most popular type of the Noh masks that first comes into people's minds. There are a number of variations including Ko-omote that portrays a young woman. Depending on ages or characters of roles, the type is broken into parts, such as Waka-onna, Shakumi, Uba, and Rōjo.
FushikizoWaka- onna The masks of a young woman.
Shakumi It portrays a middle-aged woman in her forties. The downcast hollow eyes and the dimple-like wrinkles on the cheeks build up an appearance of an elder woman, who might have experienced events of joy and anger that a woman would have in her life, such as encounters with men, falling in and out of love, marriage, pregnancy, child rearing, family ties, losing children through death, and divorce.
Rojo Mask of an old woman. While the face is thin and aged, the straight nose and sparkle in the eyes of the rōjo mask allow us to still catch a glimpse of the beauty of youth. Although this is the mask of an old woman there is not a single wrinkle, and the face is refined and beautiful.
Uba The Uba mask is not to simply represent an old woman but a diety incarnate. It symbolises a modest wife who always concurs in her husband's idea.
Kishin Masks • This is assumed to have appeared in the early stage of the history, describing supernatural substances such as demons or goblins.
Shikami This mask is used to portray violently malicious spirits or monsters. Shikami was originally a compound of shishi and kami, which mean "lion" and "bite," respectively. Thus the mask represents the look of a lion biting something.
Onryo Masks • This is the type that portrays incarnate spirits of dead persons. They include male ghosts such as Ayakashi, Yase-otoko and Kawazu, and female ones such as Yamanba and Deigan. They are all regretful and revengeful of this world.
The expression of this mask is a fusion of jealousy, grudge, sorrow, and grief of women.
Yamanba The word Yamanba, or mountain witch, reminds the Japanese people of a mad old woman in fairy tales living in a mountain with a sickle in her hand and living on human flesh. However Yamanba in the Noh plays is a good goblin living in a mountain, having strength, grimness and mightiness.
Hashihime Mask of a woman transformed into a demon after being heartbroken over the lost love of her husband. The hashihime mask is full of anger and sadness expressed in the deeply furrowed brow. The broad, open mouth and exposed gold teeth appear ready to let forth a curse, and the gold outline of the eyes indicate that the woman has already transformed into a demon.