Ayakashi 怪士

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Noh: A mask representing a wraith or a violent god. Originally interchangeable with mikazuki, it also resembles it in construction. Round metallic eyes stare out from a bony face. Black wind-swept eyebrows and mustache lend the mask vital energy, and the brownish ochre color gives an impression of vigor. The most prominent difference from mikazuki is the black strip running across the upper rim, delineating where a kanmuri black lacquer hat rests.

While in the Muromachi period, ayakashi and mikazuki masks were used for the same roles--either gods, as in Takasago, or revengeful ghosts, as in Funa benkei--by the Edo period each of the acting schools had established a tradition of using a given mask type for specific roles. Today, however, all five schools again pick from among ayakashi, mikazuki, and other related masks, that which best suits the actor's intensions.

Variations on ayakashi include the fleshy, humanly rendered chigusa ayakashi, owned by the Kongō school and said to be made by the carver Chigusa (good example owned by Mitsui family, Tokyo); the somewhat troubled shin no ayakashi of the Hōshō school; the ghostly suji ayakashi with proptruding blood vessels; the bulging-eye, large-boned Togō; and the feasome rei no ayakashi with whitish coloring, sunken eyes, and skeleton-like features (a Muromachi period example owned by Hōshō). The latter is particularly well suited to the role of Taira no Tomomori, whose ghost seeks revenge on Minamoto no Yoshitsune in the play Funa Benkei and describes his death in Ikari Kazuki. The Hōshōkai in Tokyo owns a kijiru ayakashi with fine eyebrows with a thin curl at the nosebridge and small, crossed eyes, and is designated an Important Cultural Property. See also nōmen. Compare to mikazuki. [MB]

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