Namahage Festival

Namahage Festival

February 13-15 or weekend including second Sunday in February
A namahage is a man dressed as a demon, wearing a grotesque mask and cape made of straw, and carrying a wooden pail and a wooden kitchen knife. Namahages traditionally appear on New Year's Eve at residents' homes to warn children and new wives not to be lazy ( see Omisoka). In 1964 the city of Oga adapted what was originally, and still is, a community event that occurs in people's homes into a public festival that welcomes tourists. The Shinzan Shrine is the site for the festivities, also known as the Namahage Sedo Matsuri or the Demon Mask Festival . In the dark, tens of people disguised as namahage parade down from the mountains and head to the shrine for music and dancing. As early as the 12th century, priests at the shrine would make a fire and pray as they baked rice cakes for the namahage. Today a bonfire and rice cakes still await the arrival of the namahage.
CONTACTS:
Akita City Hall
1-1-1 Sanno
Akita, Akita Prefecture 010-0951 Japan
81-1-8866-2033; fax: 81-1-8866-2278
www.pref.akita.jp/e
SOURCES:
IllFestJapan-1993, p. 132
JapanFest-1965, p. 210