【Akita】Traditional Year End Event in North part of Japan: Namahage

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Namahage is a folk event from Oga Peninsula in central Akita Prefecture.

Every year in the evening of December 31st, throughout Oga Peninsula, pairs of Namahage wearing terrifying masks and costumes come out around the houses which have children. They are shouting out “Is there a lazy, or crying child?” and entering rooms. The owner of the house has to receive Namahage, and to respond to various questions. Namahage would leave for their another journey after some conversation. On their way out, the Namahages pray for a good harvest next year in gratitude for their hospitality.

Namahage is believed to have people refrain from misbehavior, extinguish the disaster, and to bring a good harvest, through his series of actions. In fact, the roaring Namahage’s visit is especially scary for children. Children who are told, “If you do something wrong, the Namahage will come,” will become more careful than ever.

Scary looking Namahage. When treated by the owner of the house, he prays for a good harvest.

【Who is Namahage?】

For example : If you keep sitting by a fire in the cold winter, you may see red dots on your hands and feet. In this area of the Oga Peninsula, this is called the “Namomi”. The word of “Namomi Hagi(peeling)” is said to be transformed to”Namahage”. In other words, Namahage means a person who warns those who are always lazy at the fireside. Therefore, “Namahage” has a large kitchen knife in his hand to peel off the “Namomi” , and a tub to put the stripped “Namomi” in.

Namahage is also considered to be a messenger of the gods, because he warns the lazy people, and at the same time dispels evil and prays for a good harvest. This event is also registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage as “Raihō-shin: Ritual Visits of Deities in Masks and Costumes”.

A large Namahage statue(15m) at Oga Tourist Information Centre. It’s got a kitchen knife and Tub in the hand.

【Where can we see Namahage?】

More than 150 Masks are exhibited in Namahage-museum. A variety of faces are quite impressive.

Namahage visits the houses in the night of December 31st every year. You can meet him if you visit the locals’ house at that time, but it’s really difficult. But don’t worry. If you go to the Namahage Museum in Oga City, you can meet Namahage at any time of the year. Here you can see more than 150 Namahage masks in various designs that were actually used, and you can also take photos in a Namahage costume. In addition, at the Ogashinzan Densetsukan, which is right next door, you can experience the real Namahage at a private house in this region so called Magariya. The Namahage that comes into the house with a terrifying growl is quite impressive. However, even if he behaves violently, you can notice that he is following a kind of etiquette. From that type of detail, we can sense the depth of the traditional culture of Namahage.

After visiting the Namahage Museum, please visit Shinzan Shrine next. This is a Namahage shrine, and the Sedo Festival is held in the snow on the second Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of February every year. At the festival, Namahage dances and Namahage drums are performed, and real Namahage with torches come down from the mountains and walk around the precincts. The appearance of Namahage walking with a torch in the snow in the night is really fantastic.

The appearance is scary, but he himself is a messenger of God. Namahage is extremely unique existence. It is a traditional event that represents Japan in winter, so be sure to experience Namahage when you visit this area.

Sedo Fest : Namahages are coming down from the mountain with torches in their hand. They really look like messengers of the God.


Access:[Train] Tokyo Station > (by Akita Shinkansen Komachi) >Akita Station > (JR Oga line) > Hadachi Station or Oga Station > (Namahage Shuttle) >Namahage Museum      :[Car]Kitakami JCT > (Akita Motorway) > Showa Oga Hanto IC > (Kokudo 101) >Namahage Museum
:[Car]Akita Airport > Akita Airport IC > (Akita Motorway) >Showa Oga Hanto IC > (Kokudo 101) > Namahage Museum
Business hours●Namahage Museum
Open:8:30~17:00 (365days open)
Entry fee(inc.VAT):550JPY(Primary, Junior high, High school 275JPY)

●Oga Shinzan Densho Museum
Open:Apr~Nov: 9:30・10:30・11:30・13:30・14:30・15:30
:Dec~Mar、Sat・Sun・National Holiday, 31/Dec: 9:30・10:30・11:30・13:30・14:30・15:30
※1-2/Jan …9:00・9:30・10:00・10:30・11:00・11:30・13:30・14:00・14:30・15:00・15:30

Entry Fee:Apr~Nov:880 JPY円(Primary, Junior high, High school 550JPY)
:Dec~Mar : 1,100JPY (Primary, Junior high, High school 770JPY)