Deme Yoshimitsu Zekan (出目是閑吉満)

Yoshimitsu Zekan DEME (1526? - 1616) was a Noh-men uchi (a person who makes Noh masks) from the Momoyama period to the early Edo period. He was from Ono City, Echizen Province (Fukui Prefecture). He was a master of making Noh masks and granted the title 'Tenka ichi' (Japan's No.1) by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and his descendant took over the occupation, Noh-men uchi, from generation to generation. He died at the age of 90.


When Hideyoshi's subordinates distinguished themselves in a war, Hideyoshi used to grant tea ceremony utensils evaluated by SEN no Rikyu for them as incentive award at the beginning, however, later, since he came to grant Noh masks as their award, a lot of Noh masks which had added value were required, and for these reasons, the title 'Tenka ichi' was given to Yoshimitsu Zekan DEME. Before Yoshimitsu Zekan, busshi (sculptor of Buddhist Statues), Mitumori and 光増 of Suminobo in Daigo-ji Temple, in Kyoto were granted this title.

Noh-men uchi in the early-modern times were the Ono Deme family, the Echizen Deme family (Takefu City, Fukui Prefecture) and the Omi Izeki family (Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture), and it is said that all of them were monks of Heisen-ji Temple in Echizen Province and disciple line of Mitsuhiro SANKOBO who appeared at the end of Muromachi period. Yoshimitsu Zekan was taught by someone who had studied under SANKOBO, and he became the founder of the Ono Deme family. In the Edo period, these three families took over the occupation of Noh-men uchi from generation to generation.

In addition, it is said that Sukezaemon, who was the third of Ono family founded by Zekan, didn't become Noh-men uchi but Noh play performer. A person who became an adopted child of the Ono Deme family and took over the family business was Tohaku, the fourth generation, being called 'Jozu' (superior) and granted the title 'Tenka ichi,' and thereafter, he carried on the occupation of Noh-men uchi down to the end of Edo period.


His masterpieces were spread to museums both in Japan and abroad, including Hikone Castle Museum, Fukuoka City Museum and the National Museum of East Asian Art Berlin, Germany (deMuseum für Asiatische Kunst), and so on.

[Original Japanese]