There are different types of theater in Japanese culture, and they are often mistaken by foreigners. A simple way to differentiates them is to remember Kabuki theater's actors wear make-up and Noh theater's actors wear masks. There is also an humorous type of theater called Kyogen and traditional dances that use masks. People fascinated by Japan mainly find their inspiration in Noh theater (but not only) for their Japanese mask tattoos. Noh means talent. Practiced in Japan since the 14th century, it is a beautiful and refined art with complex codes. There is more than 450 different types of masks, each for different characters, heroes of legends or spirits of Japanese folklore. In Japanese tattoo art, the most famous type of mask is the Onryo. With its creepy grin and horns, it reminds Westerners of their Devil. The most famous Onryo is indeed Hannya, this female spirit of jealousy. All kind of Onryo in general are ghosts or revengeful spirits. The demons, such as Tengu, are called Kishin.
Other coveted Japanese mask tattoos are inspired by the Onna masks. They are the masks used to portray feminine heroines, with different names depending of the supposed age of the character. With their pale face, high eyebrows and mysterious expression, they fascinate ink lovers. Sometimes called Nou-men, they express few emotion. Some of them are smiling though. The Ko-omote masks are the most popular Onna, for their pure look. Male masks are called Otoko and Elders (old wise men), Jô.