Namhage Goblins & Ogre

Namhage Goblins & Ogre


Start time: Wednesday 11:00 (03 January)


Namahage (生剥)[1] in traditional Japanese folklore is a demonlike being, portrayed by men wearing hefty ogre masks and traditional straw capes (mino) during a New Year's ritual[2] of the Oga Peninsula[3] area of Akita Prefecture in northern Honshū, Japan.[4]

The frightfully dressed men, armed with deba knives (albeit wooden fakes[3] or made of papier-mâché) and toting a teoke (手桶, "hand pail" made of wood),[2] march in pairs or threes going door-to-door making rounds of people's homes, admonishing children who may be guilty of laziness or bad behavior,[2] yelling phrases like "Are there any crybabies around?" (泣く子はいねがぁ Nakuko wa inee gā?)[5] or "Are naughty kids around?" (悪い子はいねえか Waruiko wa inee ka?) in the pronunciation and accent of the local dialect.

The Namahage Sedo Festival is a combination of the Shinto “Saitousai” ritual held on January 3rd at Shinzan Shrine in Kitaura, Oga City and a traditional “Namahage” event begun in 1964 and held on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February every year at Shinzan Shrine. This festival starts at the grounds of Shinzan Shrine.

Under the light of the Sedo fire at Shinzan Shrine, after the “Yunomai” dedication of Haraikagura sacred dance (unique to the Oga area), and “Chinkamasai”, an old Shinto traditional religious service using hot water in a pot, the Sedo Festival starts. Young men are presented with masks which have been purified by a Shinto priest, and become Namahage. They then go back to the mountain, and a ceremony called “Namahage nyukon” (Namahage-spirit-investment) is held.

On stage at the shrine’s Kakuraden, some performances are held, including a reproduction of the Namahages’ New Years’ visits, “Sato no Namahage”, in which Namahage appear in different masks and costumes, and Namahage Daiko (Japanese drumming) as folk art.

In front of the Sedo fire, Namahage dance music created by Baku Ishii (modern dancer) and his son, Kan Ishii (composer), is played dynamically.

At the end of the festival, it’s fantastic to see the Namahage with torches coming down from the snowy mountain. After coming down the mountain, the Namahage walk around the shrine among the many visitors, and the festival ends.

The Shinto priests dedicate Goma-mochi (rice cakes) which are roasted on the Sedo fire as an offering to the Namahage. Then the Namahage return to the deep mountain where the God is.

The Sedo Festival is the one of the principal winter festivals in the Tohoku area. Collectively they are called the Michinoku Big 5 Snow Festivals, and also include the Yokote Kamakura, Hirosaki Castle Lantern Festival, Hachinohe Emburi, and Iwate Snow Festival.