Deep wrinkles form round patterns on his forehead and cheeks. The wavy slit eyes brim with mirth, and the joyful mouth exposes only a few stubs of teeth. The separate chin (kiriago) 切り顎 is attached by means of hemp cords passed through holes in the upper and lower jaw and waggles as the actor chants his lines. Among noh masks, this feature is unique to the Shikisanban masks. The Hakushiki-jō mask has a sparse, long white beard and pompoms made of hemp that are glued on for eyebrows. A black horizontal strip at the upper edge of the mask indicates the line where the mask meets a black lacquer hat worn in performance. Hakushiki-jō masks come in various sizes, ranging from quite large to considerably smaller than the human face.
The Hakushiki-jō mask has been considered divine. Along with the other Shikisanban masks, such as the black Kokushiki-jō 黒式尉 worn by Sanbasō 三番叟, Hakushiki-jō is set up on an altar and treated with ritual reverence before the performance begins. Carrying it out on stage in a box and donning it in front of the audience also underscores its divinity, clearly distinguishing the actor (a man) from the masked figure filled with its spirit. Along the same lines, the Okina masks differ from other noh masks in the stylization of their features, so while other noh masks will subtly change expression with movement and shifting shadows to reflect complex emotions, Okina masks always exude a warm beneficence.
Although legends attribute the oldest Okina masks to the seventh century Prince Shōtoku, the oldest Hakushiki-jo mask identified by an original dated inscription is a 1278 mask currently preserved in the Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen in Berlin. The next oldest with a dated inscription to 1477 is one in Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima, but numerous others from the fourteenth and fifteenth century have been preserved in shrines, particularly in and around the Kansai area. Each of the noh schools also treasure old Okina masks. (MB)