NOHZIN SUZUKI: NOH THEATRE
Hisao Suzuki (1928-2004) trained as a hairdresser and as a kickboxer before becoming a Noh mask-maker apprentice to his master and national treasure, Ujiharu Nagasawa. Nohzin means king of the mask-makers; a title he earned by mapping, measuring and making over 108 of the different Noh mask characters. Later in his life, he also experimented with making Bunraku puppet heads, selling antiques and donating his masks to various national museums (including The Horniman Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum 1987, The British Museum 1994).
Today in Japan there are many professional and amateur sculptors engaged in carving masks. The Nohzin-kai of Kobe is a group of such sculptors. Suzuki was one of the craftsmen designated by Japan as a “living national treasure” for his work in preserving an ancient craft or tradition.
Mr.Suzuku did a residency and workshop at The Scottish Mask & Puppet Centre between 6-19 April 1992 with the support and encouragement of puppet master John Blundall. This event was funded by Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Regional Council and The Scottish Arts Council.
Mr Suzuki brought with him an exhibition of 40 Noh and Kyogen masks, 12 sets of carving tools, a rich assortment of glues, paints and related materials plus an archive of slides and photographs. He also travelled with two female assistants – Hiroko Sakaguchi and Kimi Maenaka. The workshop was undertaken by 12 students from across the UK, and it was the first time that a Noh mask-making workshop had been taught outside Japan in this country. The SMPC Touring Exhibition Behind The Mask contains a section dedicated to Mr Suzuki’s Noh masks (Ko-omote, Fukai, Okina, Sambaso, Kitsune) together with card templates, carving tools, silk storage bags and stages in the carving of the young woman mask, the ko-omote.