Important Cultural Property
Muromachi-Meiji period/15-19th century
Originally owned by Konparu-za
Tokyo National Museum
These are 47 Noh masks that had been handed down to the Konparu family in Nara, the head family of Noh's principal actors.
They were temporarily transferred from the Konparu family to Kasuga Taisha Shrine around the first year of the Meiji period together with Noh costumes and other stage props. However, ten volunteers in Nara, who were concerned about their dissipation, established a group called "Teirakusha," through which they have preserved and protected them together. The Noh masks, which were created in the Muromachi period, are full of formative charm and are of excellent quality.
The Konparu-za is one of the four Yamato Sarugaku Za (guild of actors performing Sarugaku, which is the original form of Noh) that used to perform Takigi Sarugaku (Sarugaku performed at night by torches) at the Wakamiya Festival of Kasuga Taisha Shrine and at Kofukuji in Nara during the Northern and Southern Courts period. The four Yamato Sarugaku Za are comprised of Yuzaki-za (later name: Kanze-za), Tobi-za (Hosyo-za), Sakato-za (Kongo-za) and Emai-za (Konparu-za). The Yamato Sarugaku Za originated from a guild of actors performing Okina Sarugaku, which was performed to pray for or celebrate good harvests at festivals. Later, the performers of Okina Sarugaku and those of Noh were separated, leading to the formation of four Yamato Sarugaku Za comprised only of Noh performers.
While Kanami and Zeami led the Kanze-za, the Konparu-za was led by Konparu Zenchiku (1405-1470?) and his grandson Konparu Zenpo (1454 – 1532?). The Konparu-za prospered most during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, when Konparu Ansho (1549 – 1621) led the group as a retained actor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.