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Old Man Masks for Good Luck in the New Year

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Production of Yakuyoke masks, lucky charms given to people who make their New Year’s prayers at Ataka Sumiyoshi Shrine in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, is in full swing. At the shrine office, priestesses draw eyes and mouths on the masks with brushes to give them different expressions, then use thread to attach them to fan-shaped papers.

The mask is about eight centimeters tall and five centimeters wide, made by pasting layers of Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin. The mask is in the shape of an Okina (old man) mask that has been handed down for about 800 years in the Togashi family. There is a famous kabuki play set in the area called “Kanjincho.” In the play, Togashi no Saemon acts as the chief barrier guard at Ataka.

When the masks are displayed on a shrine shelf, they are said to absorb the year’s bad luck and, if there is too much bad luck, the mask will darken.

5,000 of them are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 20.