Taizo Kobayashi, mask-making craftsman


Taizo Kobayashi is a craftsman who makes washi masks for kagura. Trained craftsmen like him create special masks using locally produced washi paper called Sekishu washi. They first create a mould from clay and then apply small pieces of washi paper onto the mould, making several layers. The layers of washi, combined with a specially mixed glue that uses kakishibu (polymeric tannin extracted from fermented persimmon juice), make the masks light and strong.

Taizo was determined to be a craftsman when he was very young. “My elementary school teacher gave me a children’s book when I was in the first grade. It was about a boy and his father who was a mask-making craftsman. I was excited to discover the world of mask-making. Later, when I was in the fifth grade, I had a chance to meet a master craftsman. He asked me if I wanted to learn from him. I said yes instantly. I didn’t even ask my mother,” explained Taizo.

Taizo does not only make masks but also heads a local group that performs regularly at local theatres. “Masks only come alive in the theatre. I am a maker but also a wearer. Some things can only be discovered as a wearer,” says Kobayashi.

“Taking part in kagura proves that I exist here; I am certainly here in Yunotsu.”






Text by Maki Nakata
Photography by Edward Hames

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