Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This trip took her to the studio of a traditional Japanese painter who works in the Sagano area of Kyoto, where she encountered the Saga-men, a mask that originated as a talisman to ward off evil.
“The dragon is a water deity, and when I draw it, I’ve always got the flow of water in mind,” says Mr. Useki Fujiwara, the Saga-men artisan, while gazing at a dragon mask — the dragon being next year’s animal according to the ancient Chinese zodiac.
The Saga-men is a papier-mâché mask modeled on masks for the “Saga Dainenbutsu Kyōgen”, one of the three major Nenbutsu Kyōgen plays that emerged from Kyoto. Near the end of the 19th century they were sold at Buddhist temple gates as talismans to ward off evil spirits, but those who made them died off toward the beginning of the 20th century and the practice ended.
Every process takes place by hand, from making the plaster models to applying the hand-printed paper strips, also talismanic in function, to the mask. The very same dragon-year dragon from 12 years ago bears different colors and expression from today’s. On this day, KASHIYUKA got to witness the washi paper being laid onto the plaster mold for the first time.