Semimaru: a mask specifically designed for the main character in the Noh play Semimaru. Semimaru was a blind prince who is supposed to have lived in a hut at Osaka Barrier, which was on a hill on the edge of Lake Biwa (not the same as present day Osaka). The mask is of a refined young aristocrat, whose blindness is indicated by his nearly shut eyes (ironically, Noh actors can see out of this mask much better than ordinary masks because the eye slits are larger than the usual pinhole). Although legend claims Semimaru was the son of Emperor Uda (r. 888-897), it is clear that Semimaru is a completely apocryphal person -- a creation of the medieval period. According to medieval stories about him, he was either born blind or became blind, and so couldn't ascend the throne, since blindness was seen as the result of bad karma, which would be harmful in an emperor. Because his bad karma might be problematic for the nation, he was taken and abandoned at a hut by the Osaka Barrier. At first glance this is a story about the effects of tragic karma -- a great prince who becomes a roadside beggar. However, the legend also includes the story that Semimaru subsequently became a famous biwa and flute player. He is considered the founder of the medieval biwa (lute) players whose chanted stories formed the basis of Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari). There are also strong indications that he is connected to the worship of a kami in the area of Osaka Barrier. In the Noh play Semimaru, Semimaru has a brief accidental meeting with his crazy sister named Sakagami (one meaning of her name indicates that her hair sticks straight up). Sakagami undoubtedly started out as a "the kami of the slope" (saka no kami), so it seems likely that Semimaru was originally a kami as well. Later on Semimaru gets re-deified as a Bodhisattva of Song and Dance. There's a good book on the various legends surrounding Semimaru: "The Legend of Semimaru: Blind Musician of Japan" by Susan Matisoff.