Extremely rare Japanese antique usagi (rabbit or hare) mask for a Noh performance. Carved of wood and covered with gofun, a raised paste made from ground oyster shells. The surface of the usagi mask is carefully textured so that every hair is visible and some areas are polished from wear. The eyes of the hare are a pink color, similar to those of an albino snow rabbit.
Usagi is the creature most closely associated with the moon. The tale of how the hare came to inhabit the moon originates from the Jataka Tales from India. In the tale, the hare, along with his friends, a monkey, an otter, and a fox have gathered their favorite foods to eat. They meet an old man and decide to give him their foods as a charitable act. Since the rabbit has only gathered his favorite food of grass, he throws himself on the old man’s cooking fire so that he may be eaten. However, he is not burned. The man reveals himself to be Sakra, a bodhisatva. Impressed with his giving nature, Sakra takes the hare with him to live on the moon for eternity. The outline of lunar craters is thought to be the image of the hare as he pounds mochi on the moon.
Age: Edo Period
Dimensions: 14 3/4″ high x 13″ wide x 5 1/2″ deep