Masks are used in many different cultures. In Japan, Noh masks are used for theatre and dance performances. Each mask represents a certain person, hero, devil, ghost, or legendary animal, depending on what the character is in the performance. Masks have been used in Japan since the Jomon period of time (10,000 B.C.- 300 B.C.). The Japanese masks are made out of materials such as clay, dry lacquer, cloth, paper, and wood.

The oldest existing mask is the gigaku mask. These were used for an ancient dance drama that was brought up during the 7th century. The people that would perform the shows were professional dancers who were accompanied by music. There are 14 different gigaku masks. All these masks are different because they cover the whole face as well as the ears. Hair was sometimes put on the masks for decoration with black outlines for facial features. Some masks were lion heads, bird-beaked creatures, demons, and super humans. A lot of the gigaku masks were influenced by India, Indonesia, and China.
  Bugaku masks were used during the Heian period. The masks varied in size and were usually made up of cypress wood. The bugaku masks do not cover the ears like the gigaku mask. The mask can be 7 to 13 inches long, 6 to 9 inches wide, and 4 to 7 inches deep. The carvings on these masks are supposed to resemble Buddhist statues. The bugaku masks were only used in dances and since they were, the masks showed abstract looking expressions. These masks were used or dancing to different types of music such as togaku and komagaku.
The gyodo mask was specifically used for Buddhist outdoor worshipping. The processions were held with an inauguration of a temple. The masks were made into things such as bodhisativas, guardian deities, dragon gods, bishamonten, and certain demons. These masks would cover the entire face and more, which represented a superhuman. The gyodo masks were used from the late Heian period (792- 1185) in towards the Muromachi period (1392- 1568)  
  The masks that have been talked about above were the early masks of Japan. Noh masks were created from the traditions of sarugaku, dengaku, and many other rituals. Sarugaku was originally a combination of performances from China and some of them were acrobatics, juggling, and miming. The dances and rituals were performed inside temples and shrines. The masks, which were used in okinamai, show the first signs of making Noh masks. The masks were most likely influenced by bugaku and gigaku masks to form the unique Japanese design.

There are about 80 different types of masks that are needed for Noh plays, but there are more than 200 different types of masks. The normal Noh mask is designed to have a smaller face. These masks are carved from hinoki wood and if you move them a certain way then the shadow will make the mask look like its changing expression. Being able to allow the mask to do this is important because the actors have to be allowed to change expression and mood. The only people that wear masks in Noh plays are the main characters, the shites, and their followers. In some Noh plays the shite will change masks to show the true character and his nature. Choosing masks for characters is very important because it is used to show what the shite is in the character.

One type of Noh mask is the hannya mask. The person who wears this mask is supposed to play a jealous and evil woman who has turned into a demon. The pointed horns and the metal eyes and teeth are used to show anger and wrath. The hannya masks were designed based on the early snake masks and by painted scrolls, which were dated back to the Muromachi period. The coloring of the masks shows how much passion that certain character has in that demon’s anger.

  Ko-omote is another Noh theatre mask. This represents a young woman who is calm. The Ko-omote mask represents the traditional Heian beauty featuring shaved eyebrows, blackened teeth, and neat hair. Some ko-omote masks have lips that are farther apart and fuller looking cheeks. You can tell how old a character is supposed to be depending on how wide apart the masks eyes are. The ko-omote masks have eyes that are closer together to represent that it is a younger woman.
Uba masks were used to represent old women. An uba mask is usually used in the Noh play Takasago. Woman that wear uba masks are usually shown with a broom and rake. The wrinkles and the gray hair on the mask show that this character has obviously experienced a lot. The uba mask was originally made for Takasago but then was later on added to other plays.  
Otoko masks are the masks that young men wear. There are many different masks that can be used to represent young men. Just like ko-mote masks, the eyes represent how old and wise that character is. In the beginning of Noh theatre, there were no masks for young and middle aged men. As time went on, the Japanese decided to make masks for men and young men as well.
The shikami masks are used as the demon masks. You can tell when you look at the masks that this is what they are used for because of the way they look. The fang teeth and the evil looking mouth show the fear that is portrayed in this mask. There is a red complexion on the mask. This shows the anger in the demon just like in the hannya mask. Both the teeth and the eyes are painted a metallic gold as well.  
The chujo mask is another mask worn by a young male. These masks have very light skin and high eyebrows as well as black teeth, which was normal for a court nobleman at that time. This mask is said to represent the famous poet Ariwara no Narihira. The chujo mask is usually used for the character of Prince Genji in The Tale of Genji. This mask can also be used to show different parts as well.
  These are some of the masks that are used in Noh theatre. Noh theatre has been around for hundreds of years, and has almost always used masks to portray different characters. Each mask has a specific use and feeling to it. All of the masks that have been mentioned have been used in numerous different Noh plays in Japan for thousands of years. Masks are a very important part of Noh theatre and it would not be the same without them.  

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