About Oga Namahage Festival


Oga Namahage Festival is a traditional festival and has a quite long history. This festival originates from Oga City in Akita Prefecture. Namahage is the name of a deity, who resembles the demon of Oni and is said to hold cooking knives going around in the room on that festival. This festival is held to encourage young children to obey their parents and to behave, which are traditional virtues for Japanese people. So this festival has always been protected by the Japanese government and kept until now.

This festival is held on New Year’s Eve. On that night, there will be two or three local young people dressing up as the deity of Namahage. They usually wear straw raincoats, wait-bands and large masks, holding wooden pails and knives in their hands. They will go around to visit households one by one, dancing and making strange cries. Their cries usually sound menacing, like “ Are there any crybabies around?”, “ Are naughty kids around?”, “Any children disobeying their parents?” and so on.

Deities of Namahage are traditionally received by the master of the house, who has to dress in formal clothes and gives some mochi rice cakes and sake to the “Namahage”. These dressed up young people will accept the hospitality happily and promise that this family will have good health, rich crops and a large catch in the New Year. Then, they will leave this house and go to the next.

It is said that the Namahage is a deity, who will visit the households in the village and bring good fortune to them on the New Year’s Eve. Similar festivals can also be found in other areas of Japan. And the masks of the “deities” wore have different symbolic meanings. A female ogre usually wears a blue mask, and a male usually a red mask.

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