REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR PRINTED: 1965
VALUE: 70 yen

This stamp, issued by the Japanese government in 1965, depicts a mask from the Noh dance drama, the Ona, or beautiful young woman. The Ona Noh mask has been a popular theme in Japanese postage since the first such stamp was issued in 1947.

:

REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR PRINTED: 1976
VALUE: 140 yen

Despite being issued almost 30 years later, this stamps mirrors one issued by Japan in 1947, also depicting a Noh mask. This monochromatic stamp bears a mask from the Noh, Kagura, and Kyogen dance dramas, the okina, or wise and benevolent old man.

:

REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR PRINTED: 2003
VALUE: 80 yen

This stamp is part of a sheet of 80-yen stamps issued by the Japanese government in 2003 to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Edo Shogunate. This stamp depicts a Noh mask, probably of the character known as Kantanotoko. Kantanotoko represents an unhappy man named Rosei who travels to a village named Kantan to consult a priest. During his stay, he dreams he becomes an emperor, but he awakens to find nothing changed.

:

REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR PRINTED: 2003
VALUE: 80 yen

This stamp is part of a sheet of 80-yen stamps issued by the Japanese government in 2003 to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Edo Shogunate. This stamp depicts armor used by samurai, or feudal warriors. In the late medieval period, the armor included a mask called a mengu or men-yoroi, such as the one shown here. The mask was made of iron and usually had a fierce facial expression to intimidate enemies.

:

TITLE: Japanese Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kyoto Prefecture
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Wood mask of unknown type
MAKER: Unknown workshop near Kyoto
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: 1985
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: string

This is a mask of an unknown type.  It may have been used in kyōgen, which is a form of short comedic play popular in small villages and used as an intermission between dramatic nōgaku plays.


To watch a short documentary about Japanese Nogaku (Noh drama and Kyogen plays), click above.

:

TITLE: Kitsune (Fox) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kyoto
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Washi Kitsune (Fox) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Celebration; Purification
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: washi (Japanese paper)
OTHER MATERIALS: water-based paint; silk cord

Kitsune, or fox, masks are popular in Japan and worn in many types of theater and Shinto celebrations. Wood and kanshitsu masks are used in theater; paper masks like this one are used primarily by the public during festivals such as rice harvest or Oji’s Kitsune no Gyoretsu (Fox Parade) on New Year’s Eve. The fox’s popularity is related to its role as a shape-shifting messenger of the god Inari, protector of rice and fertility. The fox can act benignly or malevolently, bringing a rich harvest or wealth, or stealing these things.

:

TITLE: Kokushiki-Jo
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Kyodomen Kokushiki-Jo Mask
MAKER: Habu Mitsuma
CEREMONY: Okina (翁)
FUNCTION: agriculture; purification; spirit invocation
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: animal hair; pigment

The Okina is an ancient Japanese dance ritual that uses forms of mask known as kokushiki-jo and hakushiki-jo. These are among the oldest masked characters in Japanese ceremonies, originating as folk masks (kyodomen) used in ancient sarugaku (“monkey music”) theatre (circa 1000-1300 CE) and migrating to the formal stage for use between noh plays. The kokushiki-jo and haukshiki-jo both represent old men with divine qualities, but with slight differences in appearance. Unlike noh theatre, the Okina dance is mute, and it is performed by a kyōgen performer rather than a noh actor.

The Okina plays an important ceremonial role in the Shinto religion, because the kokushiki-jo performs the Sanbasō, a prayer-dance celebrating the emperor’s peaceful rain and seeking blessings for a bountiful harvest.


To watch a short documentary about Japanese Nogaku (Noh drama and Kyogen plays), click above.

:

TITLE: Kyodomen Fujin
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Fujin Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kyodomen
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment; Spirit Invocation
AGE: late 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

Kyodomen is the folk theatre of Japan, developed in small villages around local myths and legends. At the founding of a shrine or temple, local carvers would make masks to dedicate to the local Shinto gods or spirits. Wearing the mask invoked the god and allowed the invocation of supernatural powers to benefit the village. Fujin is one of these gods, the lord of the winds in Japanese lore, who wears a leopard skin and carries a bag of winds (possibly derivative of the Greek god Boreas) on his shoulders. He usually appears together with Raijin, the god of thunder and lightning.

:

TITLE: Kyodomen Raijin
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Raijin Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kyodomen
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment; Spirit Invocation
AGE: late 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

Kyodomen is the folk theatre of Japan, developed in small villages around local myths and legends. At the founding of a shrine or temple, local carvers would make masks to dedicate to the local Shinto gods or spirits. Wearing the mask invoked the god and allowed the invocation of supernatural powers to benefit the village. Raijin is one of these gods, the god of thunder and lightning in Japanese lore, who frequently carries a hammer or drum. He usually appears together with Fujin, the lord of the winds, who wears a leopard skin and carries a bag of winds (possibly derivative of the Greek god Boreas) on his shoulders.

:

TITLE: Kyōgen Ko-Tengu
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Ko-Tengu (Celestial Dog) Kyōgen Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kyōgen Theatre
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: laquer; paint; bronze sheet

The tengu is a legendary being very important to Japanese mythology, found in both folk tales and Shinto and Buddhist religious doctrines. Despite the reference to dog in the creature’s name (“celestial dog”) and origin, it is also associated with a predatory bird. The role of the tengu is ambiguous, with some sources treating it as a demon and others as a protective demi-god. Its form, too, varies between that of a large bird of prey and a brightly-colored human, nearly always with an exceptionally long nose.

The tengu is a popular masked character in Kyōgen theatre as well. Kyōgen is a traditional form of Japanese comic theatre, usually performed in village celebrations or as interludes between traditional Noh dramas. Kyōgen is performed by both masked and unmasked characters, whose role is defined in each traditional play. The actors are accompanied by flute, drum and gong music, but Kyōgen emphasizes dialogue and action over song or dance. In these plays, the tengu typically plays the role of trouble-maker (sometimes dupe) or mystical protector.


To watch a short documentary about Japanese Nogaku (Noh drama and Kyogen plays), click above.

: