Usobuki Mask, Kyogen Theatre, 20th century

Mask Q

Title: Usobuki Mask for Kyogen Theatre
Artist: Tanaka
Date: 20th century
Size: 20.5 x 15 cm

Carved and painted hinoki (cypress). Polychrome pigments and gesso over wood. Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Light cracks on the sides. Chipped pigment on the chin and top area of the mask. Discolouration on the lips. Seal on the back. With fabric pouch.

Original Japanese antique


Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese theatre that developed as a sort of intermission and comic relief between the solemn noh acts. The kyogen is very short, so costumes, masks, and props are simple and minimal. In kyogen the acting is exaggerated, featuring slapstick and satire, and although the performance is accompanied by the music of flute, drums, and gongs, the main emphasis is on the dialogue and action rather than the music or dance.


The usobuki (sometimes transliterated usofuki) ('air blower') is a comical character who appears to be blowing mightily. It is commonly thought to derive from a folk story about a boy named Hyottoko, who could produce gold from his belly button. It is used in different plays to represent a wide variety of roles, including a sinner on his way to the underworld, a scarecrow, insect spirits, and even plant spirits. Its eyes look surprised, but it is unable to scream or roar. It can only whistle, discretely, or sometimes cowardly. Hence, the origins of its own name: 'uso' meaning lie, and 'fuki' meaning to blow, to whistle.

More Information
Dimensions20.5 x 15 cm
Product Date20th century