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Bidou Yamaguchi

In this Japanese name, the family name is Yamaguchi.

spells his name in the English-speaking world) no longer

uses the name given him at birth.

Bidou Yamaguchi ( Yamaguchi Bid), a master Noh mask carver in the Hsh tradition, was born
Yamaguchi Hiroki on February 28, 1970, in Fukuoka,
Fukuoka, on the island of Kysh in Japan.

Bidou has studied the Hsh tradition by going to the

Hsh Noh Gakudo in Tokyo, a school and theater with
its own archives of antique masks, some of which are
about 500 years old. After having carefully studied a
particular mask, Bidou chooses an appropriate block of
Japanese cypress wood (hinoki), one that has cured for
about a century. On it he rst draws guidelines, and
then begins to shape the piece using traditional Japanese
woodcarving tools. (AsiaAlive) The blades of the knives
and chisels are made of three layers of steel, just like
renowned ancient Japanese swords. In smoothing the surface of the mask for the nal time, Bidou never uses sandpaper, but only the sharp edge of his chisel. That surface
is then coated with many layers of lacquer, each layer requiring several weeks to dry. The nal procedure is to
simulate signs of wear and old age on the mask's surface.

As an outstanding gure in the younger generation, Bidou

illustrates how this ancient Japanese art is being both perpetuated and renewed.


After attending public school in Fukuoka, Hiroki enrolled

in Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo, from which he
graduated in 1991. (Bidou, see Sources, below)

On a trip to the United States in 1991 Hiroki visited museums in major cities, some of which had large collections of Asian art. He was attracted to Japanese Noh
masks. Fascinated by these old hand-carved masks and
their history as part of an ancient art form, he decided to 3 Present Work
learn how to carve such masks. (Interview) Back in Japan,
before talking to any master carver, he began work on his
Initially Bidou created many of the traditional Noh
rst mask, one called okina, an old man mask for one of
masks. Recently he broadened the range of his work
earliest characters in Noh tradition. (Noh)
to include other astonishing mask styles, such as his
There are ve major traditions for Noh drama: Kanzu, "persona" or Western style mask. Realizing that masks
Hsh, Kamparu, Kita, and Kong. Each school has its in the medieval Muromachi period in Japan were being
own style for masks, and each school also has an archive created at about the same time as oil portraits of women
in which the oldest examples of its masks are preserved. were being painted by famous artists in Europe, Bidou be(Noh)
gan sculpting a series of these Western faces in the form
of Noh masks. The broad range of artists referenced
include: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Francisco
Goya, Diego Velzquez, Sandro Botticelli, Johannes Ver2 Apprenticeship
meer, Amedeo Modigliani, Edvard Munch, and Gustav
Hiroki was drawn to the Hsh tradition. He was intro- Klimt. (Sauer) A fascinating dialogue between Eastern
duced to master carver Gendou Ogawa, who is a Living and Western beauty has been the result. For example, he
National Treasure in Japan. Hiroki showed him the okina can place his Mona Lisa mask next to his ko-omote mask,
mask he had carved. (Bidou; Japan) The master was sur- the traditional Noh mask for a young woman, and the diprised that a person could - by himself - carve a mask that alogue is apparent. (Sauer) Bidou says,by synthesizing
so closely emulated the oldest examples of that mask. He both traditions, I create three-dimensionalpersonae
sugaccepted Hiroki as his apprentice. After ve years, about
half the usual time, Gendou awarded him the status of gest a fresher fusion of Eastern and Western cultures.
master carverand gave him the artist name Bid. (Bidou)
(AsiaAlive) The name is constructed of two parts, Bi
from Bishamonten, the God of War, and doumeaningstack of wood.It indicates that Bidou could attack
a large pile of old wood like the frenzied God of War,
and quickly carve it into masks. (Interview) Bidou (as he

Bidou has lectured widely and has demonstrated and displayed both his traditional and newest work in galleries,
universities, and museums in Japan, as well as the United
States. His masks are in collections at Nihon University,
Hsh Noh Gakudo in Tokyo (Hsh), the Minneapolis


Institute of Arts, the Target Corporation Headquarters

in Minneapolis, as well as in many private collections.
Bidou also teaches sculpture in Tokyo. (Bidou) He is
married to artist Ayomi Yoshida.

Bidou web site at http://www.Bidou-yamaguchi.
Bidou Yamaguchi: Carved Masks,Jane Sauer
Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Bidou Yamaguchi: Noh Masks and New Masks,
AsiaAlive, Asian Art Museum, of San *Francisco,
June 1-June 30, 2006; also web site at http://www.
Bidou Interview,Prof. Eugene Skibbe, Augsburg
College, March 5, 2007, ms
Hsh Noh Gakudo, Tokyo, web site at http://www.
Japan Arts Council, Noh and Kyogen at http://
Twenty Plays of N Theatre, Donald Keene, ed.,
Columbia University Press, 1970

See also
Theatre of Japan
Yoshida Family Artists
Ayomi Yoshida

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses



Bidou Yamaguchi Source: Contributors: Fg2, Shikai shaw, NawlinWiki, Colonies Chris, QuiteUnusual, Dsp13, Mitakadai, RjwilmsiBot and Anonymous: 2




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