Check out these articles

Video Introduction of "Namahage Shibatou Festival" in Oga City, Akita Prefecture, Japan

This video, titled "50 Incredible Namahage! Namahage Sedo Festival in Oga" (50匹のなまはげに圧巻!!男鹿の「なまはげ柴灯まつり」), was uploaded by "JAPAN CALENDAR."
Every Japanese person has seen the frightening faces and heard the terrifying cries of these mask-wearing figures. Namahage are part of a traditional event that takes place in Oga, Akita in Japan's Tohoku region, and is very popular among tourists.

The video shows footage from the Namahage Sedo Festival. You can enjoy the traditions of Akita, including solemn scenes and local folk performances. Check out the video to see what the event is like!

Namahage, a Unique Japanese Folklore – Demons or Gods?

Image of namahage

Are you familiar with Japan's namahage culture? Namahage are creatures that go from house to house with scary masks and knives looking for bad children, and are often mistaken as yokai.

The word "namahage" comes from the phrase "namomi wo hagu" (ナモミを剥ぐ, to tear off "namomi") which comes from the Akita dialect. Namomi are red scab-like sores caused by low-temperature burns from sitting next to a fire for too long. In other words, namomi represent a lazy person who spends too much time sitting by the fire. Thus, the word "namahage" is derived from the existence of a being who comes to "tear off a lazy person's sores" (namomi hagi) and warn them not to be lazy.

Although namahage look like evil ogre demons, they are in fact messengers of the gods and are responsible for exorcising evil spirits. So then, why do Namahage act in such a terrifying manner?

Namahage, as messengers of the gods, go into villages and are invited into homes where they are treated hospitably. The namahage not only warn children and lazy people, but also bring blessings of good health, bountiful harvests, and a safe year for people. The straw that falls from the namahage's garments is sacred, and is said to bring blessings such as protection from evil and good health.

Children Scared to Death at this Traditional Japanese New Year's Eve Event

Namahage are part of a traditional event held on New Year's Eve around the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. Young men in the village wear oni masks and go from house to house dressed in straw costumes, holding large knives or machetes in their hands.
They come into houses shouting and asking if there are any bad children or lazy people inside. The sight of the namahage banging on doors and swinging around knives and other objects in their hands frightens the children and makes them cry. On TV each year in Japan, you can see children vowing to be good while simultaneously crying.

This custom, which has a long history as a folk tradition in Akita Prefecture, was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Japan by UNESCO in 2018.

Learn About Namahage at the Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum's Namahage Museum!

Image of the Namahage Museum
Photo:Namahage Museum

For those unable to watch the actual New Year's Eve event, we recommend checking out the Namahage Museum and Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum located in Mayama, Oga.
At the Namahage Museum, visitors are greeted by namahage masks from various villages in Akita, as well as namahage costumes, and other materials on display that will help you learn about the culture and history of Oga.

At the Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum, visitors can watch a short movie called "Namahage no Ichiya" (なまはげの一夜, The Night of the Namahage) to learn about the traditions, and experience namahage in an old private Japanese house. This rare experience of seeing a conversation between a namahage and the homeowner and watching the namahage search for children is quite interesting.
If you're interested in learning about traditional Japanese culture and enjoying some beautiful scenery, we highly recommend visiting Akita Prefecture!

Namahage Sedo Festival – A Fusion of Traditional Events and Namahage at Shinzan Shrine

Image of the Namahage Sedo Festival
Photo:Namahage Sedo Festival

The Namahage Sedo Festival is a combination of namahage, a traditional culture of Akita, and the Sedo Festival, a Shinto ritual held annually on January 3 at Shinzan Shrine in Oga, Akita.

The event started in 1964 as a winter event in Oga, Akita. The festival is usually held over three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), including the second Saturday in February.
Namahage Taiko is a sightseeing event that involves namahage drumming loudly and dancing and is quite popular among tourists.
[Video] 1:06 - Namahage Taiko

The fantastic sight of Namahage coming down the snowy mountain path with torches in their hands as messengers of the mountain gods is truly a captivating experience. It's like stepping back in time.
[Video] 1:20 - Namahage Descending From the Mountain

As shown in the video, this Namahage Festival marked the 50th anniversary since the event began, and 50 namahage made an appearance! They prayed for the safety of tourists and locals alike.
[Video] 1:55 - Children Frightened at the Sight of Namahage

The festival will be held for three days from Friday, including the second Saturday in February, as in 2022, with advance registration and infection control measures, etc. Since 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the festival, various gifts will be given to visitors. For more information, please visit the official website.

Summary of Akita's Namahage

Did you watch the video of the Namahage Sedo Festival? Despite their scary faces, namahage are loved by the local people of Akita as messengers of the gods. The voice of the namahage as they search for children, while of course scary, has a kindness to it as well, reminding us that they are not evil, but rather messengers of the gods that prevent people from being bad or lazy.

There's even an application where parents can apply for a special phone call from an oni when a child does something bad. Experience the charm of namahage in Oga, Akita! The spectacular sight of the namahage holding torches is sure to make for some memorable Instagram photos as well!

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 22, 2022
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Namahage Sedo Festival – A Unique Festival in Akita Prefecture! These Namahage, Messengers of the Mountain Gods, Pray for Bountiful Harvests and Health!
If this article interests you, be sure to leave a follow.

Recommended Articles