Transforming into god, human, or ghost. The world of Nogaku looking through Noh’s mask, or “Omote” is so interesting.

2017-04-05   Traditions & History,

A variety of Noh masks or “Omote.”

Nogaku has more than 800 years of history and is a traditional performance art that Japan can be proud of.
On stage, actors play a variety of roles by wearing costumes and wearing masks called “Omote” in Japanese.
Most of the actors have traditionally been men and it still remains the same, but the costumes and Omote are very important for playing the roles of women and ghosts. I’d like to introduce the world of Omote.


The use of Noh’s Omote. It’s art and tools for transformation.

Most of the masks used today are made by Noh mask craftsman and are very carefully kept by each sect of Noh.
Most of the masks exhibited in the museums are made for appreciation and are not used for wearing onstage.
The Omote used onstage have small eyeholes with a diameter of about 1cm each, so that actors can see about 10cm in front of their feet.
Omote is composed of wood and Japanese paper, so it’s very fragile and has to be kept in an air-conditioned space. Some of them are just as important as the culturally important property that shows the history of Nogaku.

oedoline04 のコピー

Omote and Performances.

It is said that there are over 200 kinds of Omote. The appropriate masks are chosen according to the performance and the roles that are played.
It’s a little difficult, but Omote can be classified into 6 groups; old man(尉), man (男), woman(女), fierce god (鬼神), revengeful ghost (怨霊), and one more old man (翁).

The old man(尉) is used when the leading part is an old man and can be seen in the two most famous Noh performances, “Takasago” (高砂) and “Yajima” (屋島) .

The man’s (男) mask is used in the performance based on the “Tale of the Heike.”
The woman’s (女) mask is used when the leading part is a woman. It ‘s also often used in other performances such as “Hagoromo” (Celestial Feather Robe) and “Yuya.”
The fierce god’s (鬼神) mask represents something not human like a demon or long-nosed goblin.
The mask of the revengeful ghost (怨霊) has a famouse female face known as “Hannya,” a grinning, horned demoness.
Lastly, the old man (翁) is only for the performance called, “The old man” (翁). This performance was performed before the establishment of the Noh theatre and the mask of the old man has been in existence for a very long time.
These masks are often used in the performances I mentioned above, but it’s not exactly decided which mask is to be used in certain performances. The decision is up to the actor who plays the leading part onstage. The mask is also a part of the actor’s body.






【For your information】
Museums where you can see the noh omote’s exhibition.
Nagaya-mon gate ”Noh-mask museum”
Operation hours : First and third Saturday and Sunday. 11:00~17:00
※During the cherry blossom season, it is opened every day.
Entrance fee :300 yen
Access : 15 minute walk from Tokorozawa station by Seibu Shinjuku line
Official website :

Kindlake noh museum
Operation hours :Weekday A.M.10:00~P.M.4:00 Weekend A.M.10:00~P.M.5:00
Closed on :Tuesday ※If it was national holiday, it’s opened and the next day is closed.
Entrance fee : 300yen for adult  Children under 13 years old 200yen  
※You can get a group discount of 10% off if you come in a group of more than 30 people.
Access : 55 minute by Fukutetsu-bus from JR Takefu station.
Official website :

Kanazawa noh museum
Operation hours :10:00~18:00  
Closed on :Monday (If it was national holiday, it’s opened and the next day is closed.
),and Year-end and New Year holidays.
Entrance fee : 300yen for adult , Free for pupils under junior high school.  
Access : 5 minute walk from the bus stop “Korinbo” from JR Kanazawa station. Or 2 minute walk from the bus stop “Hirosaka”.
Official website :

Websites you can see Noh masks.
Tokyo National Museum e国宝

Tadaima Japan is looking to improve. Please rate this article!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

You might also like


miki iwai

miki iwai


I love Japanese traditional culture and travelling all over Japan. I also like to see Noh performances, doing calligraphy, and reading/making Japanese poems called “Tanka.” Through writing, I’d like to introduce a unique culture that only exists in Japan.