I have observed that the holes linking the throat guard (tare) to the mask body (men) are somewhat different from one mask to another. They usually go by pairs which is quite understandable due to the method of stitching but some have few scattered holes and other have quite a lot of holes. Is there some quality involved in this trend ? I have noted looking at the pictures available that usually the more numerous holes are on higher quality mempo, is that right ? (I hope that you have understood what I meant to say).
Last question please, can you tell me what are the main points to look for before acquiring a mempo ? Thickness, overall condition.....?
As mentioned by Anthony, it depends if the mempo was mounted in sugake or kebiki and it is not really a quality criteria in my opinion even if the more Odoshi, the more luxuous a piece can be. Thickness is a criteria but many old mempo of great quality I have seen are thin. Overall conditions of course is a criteria for the price and overall design, balance, qualitiy of the emboss, age, if it is laquered or not, if the laquer has been removed or not, if it is damaged,... are some of the things you may want to look into before acquiring a mempo. The more original and nice looking, the more expensive it should be. In all that, when buying some pieces the most important should be your own taste, if you like the piece or not.
And of course watch out for the cracked ears, flaking lacquer, wrong nose attached (or a later addition to an earlier mask), modern repro etc etc ....... Looking at the inside around the teeth area is often a good clue to the age (or rather lack of). A lot of the Taisho and Meiji pieces are rather thin steel and very light weightm and the rear of the teeth are thin ridged sheet, as opposed to heavy rounded and lacquered. Best bet is to cruise Yahoo Japan for a few weeks at least ("mempo" search :http://auctions.search.yahoo.co.jp/search?ei=UTF-8&p=%E9%9D%A2%E9%A0%AC&oq=&auccat=0&slider=0&tab_ex=commerce&s1=cbids&o1=d ) to get an idea of what is out there and the prices. If you bookmark interesting pieces you can go back after the auction ends and check the final price. Just by way as a warning, the red Tengu somen ? that Bonhams sold last year for 200,000 advertised as signed 17 or 18 century ..... one of the Japanese dealers I met shortly afterwards laughed and said he met the maker of it in person some 30 years ago. So there are fakes out there.... luckily the more exotic pieces though. The old adage ---- if it looks too good to be true .......
Thank you very much to all of you. Your explanations are quite clear (but I had to see what sugake or kebiki lacing look like). I will try to follow those advices. Aspecial thanks to Roger for the link and the extensive explanations.