On Wednesday 28th 2012 I visited the 14th Udaka Michishige Men-No-Kai Noh mask exhibition at the Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture. The exhibition featured over 30 masks both by Udaka Michishige and by his students. Udaka Michishige is not only a high-profile actor of the Kongo School of Noh, designated Important Cultural Asset by the Japanese government in 1991, but also a superb Noh mask carver. A number of his masks have been approved by the Iemoto Kongo Hisanori, and are now regularly used on stage. I should point out here how normally Noh mask carvers are not professional actors: they conduct their activity independently. Many Noh masks are not even considered to be for stage purpose, but for decorative purpose in private houses, offices, hotel lobbies, etc. I am not saying this in a derogatory way: some of these are very beautiful indeed… except that they are not suitable for stage use. Here is where Udaka Michishige is special: as an actor with extensive experience of mask use on stage he understands what distinguishes a beautiful work of art from the most important expressive tool of the Noh actor on stage, and implements this knowledge in his mask carving activities. Udaka Michishige teaches Noh mask carving in Kyoto, Nagoya, Matsuyama, and Tokyo: if you are interested in masks and would like to observe a carving session, please check the Men-No-Kai website for contact details.
Among the masks displayed during the 3 day exhibition were among Udaka-sensei’s finest pieces – here are some pictures I took with my iPhone (sorry for the bad quality…) – I will post more soon!