【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~Iwami Nagahama Mask ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~Iwami Nagahama Mask ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~Iwami Nagahama Mask ~



Kagura is a type of ritual dance that first thrived in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture. The dances, originally performed at shrines, would last from evening until dawn the next day, to show gratitude to nature and the gods during the harvest season. Based on Japanese myths, these performances were grand and colorful spectacles, and beginning in the dawn of the Meiji era (around 1868), kagura troupes began to form to entertain shrine visitors. It is that kagura style that has been handed down into the modern era as a tradition art form.  

Lush, dazzling costumes, diligently embroidered stitch by stitch, are one of the most important elements of kagura. But another indispensable ingredient in the swift-paced, soul-stirring Iwami Kagura are the masks, made of light yet sturdy Sekishu Washi (A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage). 



Manufacturing Method

  • The mask base is created from clay 
  • After the clay dries, the washi (Japanese paper) is carefully applied, layer by layer 


After the washi dries, the clay base is broken and removed 

Persimmon juice is applied to the inside of the mask and let dry 

Holes are opened for the eyes, nose, and hair 

Chalk paste is applied and let dry repeatedly 



Color and detail are applied 

Hair is implanted.



Lucky charms

In recent years, kagura masks have found demand as lucky charms, prized not only for their role in kagura dances, but as housewarming and anniversary gifts.



Japanese hand-made paper

Sekishu washi is a type of washi (Japanese paper) produced in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture. Originating in the year 704, it has since received designations of “important intangible cultural asset,” “traditional craft,” and “intangible cultural heritage.” It was also registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009. 

Changing social structures in modern times have created challenges due to personnel and material shortages, but many people are working very hard to preserve this important traditional skill.


“Kakishibu” : A natural coating

The juice of the unripe persimmon, fermented and then strained, is known as “kakishibu.”  The tannin found in this juice has waterproofing, preserving, and insect repelling effects. It’s been used as a natural coating since ancient times.


Burnt cedar

Burnt cedar has traditionally been used as material in the outer walls of buildings. 

Carbonizing the surface in advance reduces the wood’s flammability, and increases

its durability against wind and rain.



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