On New Year's Eve, strange deities holding cooking knives go around visiting homes in Oga
This is an event passed down from ancient times around Oga City, Akita Prefecture. Namahage is the name of the strange deity resembling a demon, known as oni.
On New Year’s Eve, a group of 2 or 3 village youths disguised as a rather grotesque deity called Namahage, wearing large masks, straw raincoats and waist-bands, holding wooden knives and pails, go around visiting the houses at night, dancing along as they give out strange cries. They shout out menacing cries such as: “Any children crying?” “Any children disobeying their parents?” or “Any lazy daughters-in-law neglecting their work?”
The Namahage deities are received by the head of the family in formal dress, who offers sake and mochi rice cakes. Appeased by the warm hospitality, they take leave of that house, promising that the family will be blessed with good health, a large catch and a rich crop in the New Year, and then set off to visit the next home.
The Namahage event is derived from the belief that a deity bringing good fortune makes a visit to the village from elsewhere in the New Year, and similar events are found in other regions of Japan. The red mask represents a male ogre while the blue mask is symbolic of a female ogre.
*Photo (C) Oga City Tourism Division
- [Rail]JR Oga Station is about 1 hour from JR Akita Station on the JR Oga Line.
- Throughout the Oga Peninsula
- December 31st
- Oga City, Akita Prefecture