The Secrets of Noh Masks
In this beautifully designed guide to Noh theater and masks, Michishige Udaka truly demonstrates his passion for and life-long dedication to this historic artform. As both a mask designer and Noh theater performer, Udaka-sensei continues to share his talents and knowledge through the photographing, cataloguing, and detailed descriptions of some of his most expressive works. The foreward, preface, and twelve page history of Noh theater and masks included in this text not only describes how Noh theater has achieved UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status but also why it deserves such recognition. With diagrams of the Noh stage to descriptions of various plays, program formats, and performers, this guide provides the background necessary for us to better understand not only the thirty-two masks which are featured in the book but also the cultural and historic value of Noh theater.
As a high school art and social studies teacher, I look forward to sharing this resource with my students as part of our unit on mask making. With almost three dozen different examples in this book, each student will be able to share the unique qualities of the piece that they investigate. In the past, I have used examples from the book “Mask Art in Asia” which I picked up at the Hahoe Mask Museum in Andong, South Korea, but that source lacks background information on individual masks. I appreciate the fact that Udaka-sensei took the time to describe the special qualities of each of the works he made by hand. He also divided this book into separate chapters on “Women and Ghosts” and “Men, Deities, and Demons”; these chapter titles alone should pique my students’ curiosities. The photos of the masks by Shuichi Yamagata are incredibly artful and take a look at each mask from multiple perspectives, truly relating to the power of a Noh mask to provide different emotions with just the slight tilt of the head. It will now be up to my students to decide which representation best shows the qualities of a ghost, deity, or demon, and I believe that they will enjoy this challenge!