Hyottoko is a comical Japanese character, portrayed through the use of a mask. His mouth is puckered and skewed to one side. Some masks have different eye sizes between the left and right eyes. He is often wearing a scarf around his head (usually white with blue dots). There is a similar character for women called Okame or Otafuku, seen on the left above.
The origin of the name comes from “fire” and “man,” because the character is blowing fire with a bamboo pipe, hence the shape of the mouth.
Hyottoko seems to have been a legendary character in Japan in the past, and is now a stock character.
In Iwate Prefecture, there is a myth about the origin of Hyottoko. In the story, there was a boy with a bizarre face who could create gold out of his belly button, so when someone died in a house, you would put the mask of this boy at the top of the fireplace to bring good fortune to the house. The name of the boy was Hyoutokusu.
In some parts of northeastern Japan, Hyottoko is regarded as the god of fire. There is a well known folk story in the form of music, izumoyasugibushi, where a fisherman dances with a bamboo basket, having the same visual expression as the mask of Hyottoko. During this dance, a person puts five yen coins on their nose.
Hyottoko also appears in traditional dance dengaku. He plays the role of a clown. Dancers wearing Hyottoko masks also appear in some Japanese local festivals. One of the most famous Hyottoko dances takes place in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Hyottoko plays a role in a number of traditional dances as a clown-like figure with foolish steps.