Traditionally crafted Furyu mask

What's a Furyu mask?

Furyu mask
A Furyu mask is for dancers who participate in the Menburyu dance. The masks are supposed to be evil. There are male and female masks to show inspiration and represent a man and woman in tune with each other.
The female mask has a wide open mouth with a tongue sticking out, the eyes are turned up and the forehead has a lot of winkles.
Also it has a small horn, some masks have twisted horns while others have a protruding one.
The male masks have big eyes, a closed mouth, wrinkled brows and the horns are long.

Furyu mask materials

Furyu masks are for the Menburyu dance, A tool called a 'Tung' is used to carve the wood and make it lighter. Then the surface of the mask is lacquered.
At our workshop, we make different kinds of Furyu masks, some for the Menburyu dance and others from plain wood for decoration.
Masks carved from plain wood use wood from the camphor tree which is the tree representing Saga prefecture. The masks show a combination of the woods beautiful grain, the strength and smell of the tree and blessings of nature and Japanese traditional culture.
Furthermore, the camphor tree possesses a great quality in that no two trees share the same deep color. Each one is unique.

About Menburyu

Menburyu is Kashima city's original traditional dance and Saga prefecture's Important Intangible Folk Cultural asset.
The dance is to wish for a huge harvest, praying for rain and dedication to god. The dancers wear Furyu masks, they wear horse hair on their heads, hang a small drum from their shoulders and dance bravely with sounds of whistles, bells and drums. Depending on the area, the costumes are different but around Ariake Sea and west Saga to Isahaya city in Nagasaki prefecture, the dancers wear the livery coat with a sailor's pattern or a plain navy blue undergarment.

Menburyu is popular with locals and is also known around the prefecture.

Menburyu 01
Menburyu 02

Origin of Menburyu

There are several legends about Menburyu. According to one theory, in 1750, there was a feud between lord Otomo and lord Ryuzouji. Lord Ryuzouji and his army were exposed to dangers by lord Otomo's brave army.
At that time, a suicide squad from another lord called Nabeshima attacked Otomo. They wore yak hair on their heads and rang bells, beating drums and bellowing war cries. Lord Otomo's army quailed in the attack and then they were beaten.
The victorious army danced in celebration of winning the feud, this allegedly spawned the origin of Menburyu.
Although there are records that the army wore yak hair to the fight, it is not yet confirmed if they actually wore Furyu masks. Possibly, to wear Furyu mask is for praying a good harvest and confining the bad sprits that harm to the farming.