September 24, 2014

Oh Noh! Japanese Masks

Express Yourself! Paper Masks Inspired by Japanese Noh Masks

This summer while researching projects for my seventh grade art class, I came across these Japanese Noh masks.  They are quite expressive and beautiful, while maintaining their simplicity.


Noh classic Japanese dance theater is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. The Japanese theater is divided into the Kyogen, or comedic and the Noh, the more serious of the plays.  Traditionally, in Noh plays all roles were played by men, wearing masks and costumes.  The masks are quite beautiful, and portray both genders with a range of ages and expressions.

Here, seventh graders made Noh inspired masks expressing a particular emotion.

Using a variety of textured papers, their challenge was to express emotion and age through positive and negative shapes and color.  Integrating art and literacy, I asked them to use one word to describe their feeling.

The steps to make a paper Noh mask are quite simple:

  1. fold a 12″ x 18″ piece of colored paper in half
  2. cut along the open end, which becomes the outside profile of the mask
  3. cut along the fold to make the mouth and nose
  4. cut a hole for the eyes
  5. cut and glue paper details to accentuate the expression.  The colors and textures of the paper will change the feeling of the mask.

Have you made paper masks with your students? It’s a wonderful way to share cultures. Let me know what you think below.

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