East Asia

Recent Bugaku mask from Japan

Q:  I’ve got a new mystery mask for you.  I was in Japan all December, filming ceremonies and collecting masks for the Museum, and I came across this one in an antique store in Kyoto, which I absolutely do not recognize.  This is not a tourist item, but I don’t recognize the type.  The back gives the date (1985) and what appears to be someone’s name, or possibly the name of a workshop, but the kanji is unclear.  Do any of your visitors have expertise in Japanese folk traditions?  Aaron,1655

A: My guess is Bugaku. These kind of masks can go back 800 years. I’ve heard a few of them are still being made for sale at temples… and sometimes danced. But as time has passed, these carved wood masks have become lower in artistry and quality.

You sent me a painted black Bugaku mask that I published on May 11, 2016, numbered 968. You might want to check it out. I am still not an expert in Japanese tradition masquerade. Maybe some of our viewers will give us a little help.

One Comment

  • Bob Ibold

    Aaron just wrote: Thanks, Bob! I don’t think it’s a Bugaku mask. Bugaku masks are always lacquered and represent a specific character. I think it’s a mask for some local ceremony, or probably kyogen.

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