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Masks and Costume for the Kyogen Theater

  • Image of "Kyogen Mask, Saru (monkey) type, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century"

    Kyogen Mask, Saru (monkey) type, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century

    Masks and Costume for the Kyogen Theater

    Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 9 : July 22, 2009 (Wed) - September 13, 2009 (Sun)

    Kyogen is a classical genre of comic theater themed on daily life in the Muromachi period. In Kyogen plays, personal relationships, communications in families, and the connections between people and deities, Buddhist beliefs, and the nature, are portrayed comically and at times sarcastically. The humor in Kyogen plays is based upon careful observations of the characters' personalities, such as cunningness, laziness, jealousy, selfishness, and also good will, which contemporary people can easily identify with.

    Masks used in Kyogen contribute to drawing laughter in their humorous expressions. Animals such as monkeys and foxes, or rich and unusual features of men and women of young and old represented in Nakiama, Oji, or Oto masks, together with masks of superhuman roles such as Usobuki, Kaminari, and Kentoku, are examples of the unique masks that add to the amusement of Kyogen.

    Kyogen costumes follow the style of commoners' clothing in the Muromachi period. In contrast to the extravagant Noh costumes decorated in abundant embroidery with gold and silver leaf, the costumes of Kyogen are understated, apparently since they were worn by more familiar characters such as easygoing country daimyo warriors and their retainers. At the end of the Edo period, garments such as suo and kataginu which were worn by the warrior class were arranged, for example, in bold colors and humorous designs. Depictions of annual events, festivals, seasonal flowers, plants, vegetables, tools and toys from daily life, along with familiar animals and insects living in the nearby wildness or around people's homes, came to be featured freely on the costumes.

    The second volume of the Illustrated Scrolls of the Noh and Kyogen Theater portrays Kyogen being performed at the mansions of daimyo warriors during the early Edo period. The lively expressions of the characters on stage together with their colorful masks and costumes are highlights of the work.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Kyogen Mask, Saru (monkey) type , Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century
Kataginu Sleeveless Jacket (Kyogen costume) , Wave, rabbit, peony, arabesque, sand bank and bamboo design on black ramie, Edo period, 19th century