• Hannya, an Enraged Woman

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    Two Buttons from a set of 6 noh mask buttons by Toshikane of Arita porcelain.

    The hannya mask on the Japanese traditional noh stage portrays the souls of women who turn into demons from their obsession and jealousy.

    Hannya masks are used in various noh plays. A good example is found in a chapter of an 11th-century story, The Tale of Genji.  The story was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, who is recognized as one of the earliest female novelists recorded in the world. Her readership was mostly women in the court of Empress Shōshi, and the ladies were said to be huge fans of this serial romantic novel.

    The demonic character is Rokujo, one of many mistresses of a noble playboy protagonist, Genji. She turned into a hannya after becoming obsessed with jealousy towards his wife, Lady Aoi.

    Following an episode in which she is humiliated in public by Lady Aoi (the official wife),[6] Rokujo (the mistress) is enraged to discover that Aoi is pregnant. Genji (the husband, the playboy protagonist) begins ignoring Rokujo, and in her jealousy her living spirit leaves her body and possesses Lady Aoi, resulting in Aoi’s falling sick – the starting-point of the play.[7]

    An example of hannya in a theatrical noh mask (Wikipeia)
    (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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