Noh Masks and Costumes

Hello all!

We began today at 9:30 with a taxi to the house of Otsuki Kokun, the Noh mask maker who would be speaking with us. He led us to the upstairs of his house where beautiful Noh masks were laid out on almost every surface. He explained to us the minute differences between masks that told of their affinities for particular characters and the techniques that went into creating those differences. It was amazing to hear him talk about the masks — I almost felt like they were alive the way he spoke of them. He told us how he was first exposed to mask making and how he was drawn to it because it is a form of art that must be honest by nature. (When you carve wood, each stroke is permanent. There is no way to go back and fix something or to hide or cover something up.) I was able to appreciate the beauty of the masks, but they didn’t really come alive for me until I heard Kokun-san speak about what they meant to him. When it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave!

We then had a quick lunch before heading over to a Noh costume-making studio, headed up by a man called Sasaki-san whose family had been in the business for generations. Although it took Kokun-san speaking about his masks to make me really connect with them, I have to admit that I was amazed merely by stepping inside the weaving room where the cloth for the Noh costumes was made. The steady movement of the looms and the unceasing and sure actions of the weavers immediately set me at ease and filled me with a sense of wonder. At home, I’ve grown up with a grandma that quilts and knits and embroiders, so I have had some experience at appreciating art made of fabric. It’s something that I have long thought to be beautiful. The cloth being made there was like nothing I have ever seen before. I am very certain that I could have quietly stood in a corner for hours observing the steady glide of the weavers’ hands and the slow and relentless pace of the looms.

We returned to the hostel later in the evening to have a bit of a pot-luck dinner and to practice for our presentations tomorrow. I have to confess that I’m a bit nervous, but I’m ready to do my best! I know that once Frankie and I finish our presentation, we’ll be less than a day away from getting to go back to Tofuku-ji and and to have another conversation with Kei-san. I can’t wait!

See you tomorrow!


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