Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Japanese Miscellany: Otafuku (お多福)

The balloon-faced mask painted a spectral white with ruby lips and depressed nose is called otafuku (お多福). As her name indicates, she is a symbol of good fortune, literally meaning "lots of luck". She dates from the Muromachi era (1336-1573), when chubbiness in women was indicative of wealth, as indeed it was until well into the 20th century. Traditionally otafuku masks were worn by dancers at festivals, and nowadays the masks are occasionally seen in commercial establishments. In modern-day Kyoto new building sites are blessed in the name of otafuku prior to construction.

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