By the death of Kiyotoki-Shimomura on May 29th, 1922, at the age of fifty-five, not only Nippon, but the world at large, lost a master carver of noh masks, a branch of art peculiarly Japanese in spirit. On account of the important position held by his family for generations in noh drama he was given rare opportunities of studying at close hand famous masks by old masters which were very rarely permitted to be seen except when they were worn on the noh stage. Not only that, but he had had a severe yet kind criticism on his work by Hōshō Kurō Tomoharu (Japanese Noh actor. 宝生 九郎 知栄; Fukagawa-san, 1837-1917), a great authority on the Noh, which spurred him on until at last he grasped the spirit of this unique art, and was able to produce masks that could favourably be compared with those of ancient masters. Continue reading →
Four no-masks. Above left: The blind singer. Semimaru Kimura. Upper right: type Hashihime, girl transform into a demon. Bottom left: Heshimi Akujo (demon) of Shigeyoshi Bottom right: type Kurohige (demon) of Shigeyoshi (18th century?)
Noh (Jap. 能) is a traditional Japanese theater, traditionally played only by men (danced) and is accompanied by music. Since the beginning of the 20th century, more and more women acquire the status of professional Noh performer. Most of the main characters (shite) wears a mask. The traditional themes mostly relate to Japanese or Chinese mythology or literature. The Noh theater was created in the 14th century by Kan’ami and his son Zeami Motokiyo. At that time, Noh actors were also at the same time, the authors of the pieces. Zeami was one of the most famous Noh theorists. In the Edo period (between the 16th and 19th century) it was a privilege of the samurai to play the Noh theater and visit. At that time, Noh actors had the hereditary samurai status. The Noh theater is traditionally performed in conjunction with Kyōgen, a kind of comedy. Noh and Kyōgen were taken in 2001 under the collective term Nōgaku together in the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The Religious Life of the Zuni Child by Mrs Tilly E Stevenson. From the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-84 by J. W. Powell, Director (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1887).