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Okina refers to a ritual performance (also called Shikisanban 式三番) as well as to the name of the white mask (also called Hakushiji-jō 白式尉) worn by the main character in that noh. The mask represents a happy old man and is considered sacred. On ceremonial occasions Okina heads a noh program. The Shikisanban ritual goes back to before the creation of noh plays and was seen by Zeami Motokiyo 世阿弥 as the foundation of his art. Versions of Okina are still performed in shrines around Japan by different kinds of performer.

Noh Kyogen


Okina dance

In the Shikisanban, the dance of Okina follows the purification of the stage by Senzai and the donning of the Hakushiki-jō mask on stage. Okina sings of long life (symbolized by tortoise, crane, and ever flowing waterfall) and the age of the gods who bring peace and prosperity. He then dances progressing around the stage in a triangle. He stops at the corners to indicate heaven, earth, and man, thereby symbolizing their mutual harmony. He ends with an invocation of the "Joy of Ten Thousand Years" (manzairaku).

Okina mask

The white faced Hakushiki-jō mask of a happy old man is used in noh and festival performances of Shikisanban. 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) is attached by means of hemp cords passed through holes in the upper and lower jaw and waggles as the actor chants his lines. The 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 oldest Hakushiki-jo mask yet found with an original dated inscription is a 1278 mask in the Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Many other fine old Hakushiki-jō masks belong to shrines and the acting troupes.

Okina masks (plural) refers to all four masks related to the performance of Okina, two of which are no longer used in the standard noh version today. These are Okina, Sahbasō 三番叟 (also known as Kokushiki-jō 黒式尉, Chichino-jō (father) 父尉, and Enmeikaja 延命冠者 (Youth of Long Life). All but the last are characterized by deep stereotyped wrinkles and separate chins (kiriago).

Okina costume

Okina is dressed like a Heian courtier in a round-collared courtier's upper garment, a kariginu 狩衣, and sashinuki 指貫 pantaloons, The kariginu has a woven shokkō pattern of linked octagons and small squares that is specifically associated with the Okina role. Likewise, the courtier's cap is folded in a unique Okina eboshi烏帽子 manner and he carries an Okina fan, which has imagery evoking turtles and cranes, symbols of long life. (MB)


Woodblock print of Okina by Tsukioka Kōgyo, Nōgaku zue, 1897.



[[Category:Kabuki|title or Romoaji]