Mempo: Mask of the Samurai

Medieval Japanese armor featured a number of masks and face guards, each of which had a different name and style.

To a certain extent, all Japanese armored masks were designed for two purposes: first, to protect the wearer’s face in combat and, second, to terrify or intimidate the viewer.

The mempo (or menpo) -style mask covered teh wearer’s face from nose to chin, and often featured a scowling mouth and a mustache (with or without a beard, and frequently made from real hair or bristles).


The second mask from the top is menpo or mempo style.

Samurai wore masks made of metal, leather, wood and lacquer, and during the medieval period masks were often decorative as well as functional.

A mempo mask appears in my upcoming novel, Claws of the Cat, though you might have to look fairly carefully to find it!

Have you ever seen a mempo mask in a museum or on display? If you were samurai, which style of mask would you prefer?