Wood and lacquer
21.4 (h) x 14 cm
Edo period, 17th-18th century
Awasebako (collector's box)
Museum of Nō Artifacts, Japan
Deme Tōhaku Mitsutaka (1633-1715)
Nō mask, “Shakumi” type
The masks used to depict middle-aged women are called Fukai and Shakumi. Both have protruding foreheads and vertical wrinkles in their cheeks that indicate advancing age and loss of skin tone. The flesh of the cheeks is highlighted and the entire face appears turned upward (“shakure” in Japanese).
The Shakumi mask is used to play the role of a mother looking for her lost child or that of a wife mourning her lost husband. The face reveals not only the woman’s age but the distress she has suffered as well. It is used in performances of plays like Sumidagawa or Miidera.
The inscription “Gift from Hirohashi Dainagon” appears on the storage box. Dainagon was a high-ranking counselor in the Japanese imperial court. According to its provenance, Deme Tōhaku copied this mask from the original one that was owned by Dainagon Hirohashi Kanekatsu (1558-1623) and passed down to the Konparu family. The mask shown here was also owned by the Hirohashi family, which in turn gave it to someone else.
The Tokyo National Museum has a similar Shakumi mask which is registered in Japan as an Important Cultural Property (C-1547). From time to time, the Konparu family probably ordered copies of these original masks from Nō carvers.
The back of the mask is lacquered, and that indicates that it was owned by nobility or a high-class samurai family. There are traces of it having been re-lacquered. The description on the back of the mask bears the inscription “Ōka” (Cherry blossom).