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Ritual Deities of the Namahage Sedo Matsuri

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Ritual Deities of the Namahage Sedo Matsuri

 

A UNESCO-designated winter festival steeped in Japanese folklore

Akita Tourism Federation

 

 

With its wild hair, horns and sharp teeth, the red-masked, demon-like namahage is one of the most striking characters from Japanese folklore.

Originating in Oga, Akita, in Tohoku, the namahage is considered a deity and is the subject of one of Japan’s most important winter celebrations, the annual Namahage Sedo Festival, which was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2018.

The festival takes place at Shinzan Shrine in Oga and features bonfires and taiko drums, as well as performances of the New Year’s Eve tradition of namahage visiting village homes to denounce laziness and encourage hard work.

The festival climax sees torch-bearing, masked namahage, descend from the mountains in darkness into the shrine, roaring as they parade through the crowds.

The Namahage Sedo Matsuri takes place on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February. You can discover the legend of the namahage year-round at the Namahage Museum and Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum, which showcase more than 150 masks as well as hosting regular re-enactments.

 

How to get there

 

15 minutes by Namahgae shuttle from JR Oga Station.

 

 

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