Okina

These hashioki depict an okina, the mask worn by the old man character a Kyōgen playIMG_2309 with the same name. Kyōgen, short plays that are performed before or during the intermission of solemn Noh dramas, are often humorous, but this particular play is more inspiring than humorous. The okina character, whose white hair and white beard signify wisdom, performs a dance while he prays for peace and prosperity during the play. He also makes references to the tortoise and the crane, which are popular longevity symbols (see June 2016 post “An auspicious pair” and July 2016 posts”Cranes” and “Turtles”). An Okina play is traditionally performed at New Year’s. In both these hashioki the okina mask rests on a folded sensu or ōgi fan, which is a common prop in Noh and Kyōgen plays.

IMG_2308

I purchased this particular okina hashioki at the Oedo Antiques Fair in Tokyo in December 2010. The dealer who sold it insisted that it was “very old,” and a rough spot on his nose and some discoloring on the back at the base certainly suggest that it is an antique. Since it’s unusual to see anyone under 50 at a Noh performance today, only someone who was an antique themself — or a crazy Westerner who was a collector — would probably be interested in such an item.

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