East Asia

Why such a distorted Japanese mask?

The use of masks in Japan started from 10,000 BCE. They are used in plays and rituals, and for Noh theater. Today there are a wide range of characters, ranging from very realistic to extreme exaggerations.  This one is called Hyottoko. He can be used for comic interludes in Noh plays. The inexpensive papier mache version shown here can also be used by street performers and the general public.  In the USA it can show up for Halloween.

Hyottoko, is probably the strangest-looking character of Japanese masquerade.  Of course, he is very funny looking and very strange.  But I think he would be disturbing enough to strike fear in somebody walking alone in a dark alley. You can see him and 25 very different Japanese masks on pages 54 thru 56 in Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn.

Why does Hyottoko’s face always look so distorted?  According to a description I read, he is blowing fire with a pipe that goes out the side of his mouth. But why does he blow fire? Why is his mask so popular? There is so much to learn about Japan’s many different masks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *