Celebrated at the Shinzan Shrine in Kitaura, Oga city, this winter attraction is a combination of Saitousai, a sacred ritual performed on January 3rd, and Oga’s local folk performance of Namahage.
Saitousai has its historical roots in the late Heian period (794 - 1185). A bonfire is lit on the grounds of the shrine where large mochi (rice cake) are roasted and then offered to the gods.
Namahage is a local folk performing art ritual, also representative of Oga. Masked and wearing straw-woven Kede, the masquerade of men celebrate the New Year with broad-bladed kitchen knives in hand. Seen as divine incarnations that straighten-out laziness, Oga’s traditional Namahage is designated as the nation’s significant intangible folk cultural asset.
The two traditions have been combined as an event since 1964, allowing visitors to fully enjoy the folk culture of Oga.
Scenes from New Year’s Eve’s in Shinzan area are reenacted from around 18:45. Namahage bang and shake the doors as they enter people’s homes. “Any bad children here? Any sobbing children here?” The scenes of them terrifying the children are well known all over the country. The Namahage eventually make an exit after leaving guidance and advice for the family.
Experience this locally rooted tradition and learn about the Namahage!
From around 19:05, a variety of different Namahage representing various areas of the city parade through the festival site.
There are regional variations within the Namahage tradition, and so are the masks themselves. This is a great chance to observe the many looks of Namahage. Watch them up close!
From around 19:20, “Namahage Taiko”—combining Namahage and Japanese taiko drums—is performed. Originating in the late 1980s, this thrilling art-form is performed in hopes of family safety and good harvest of grains. The vitality of the taiko and the vigor of Namahage double up to impress the viewers.
Experience the excitement as this newly developed folk performance heats up the cold winter night!
From around 19:50 is the festival’s grand finale. 15 growling Namahage holding flaming torches appear out of the dark woods, ascending from the snowy mountain. The vigorous yet mesmerizing sight captivates the viewers.
From 20:10, Gomamochi (protective rice cake)—known to be a charm against bad omen—are handed out by the Namahage. Photo opportunities with the Namahage follows, so stick around and enjoy the festival to the very end!
Temperature will drop significantly during the festival. Please do not forget to protect yourself from the cold.
Access to Oga city
Oga Station (JR Oga Line)
Address: 97 Mizukuisawa Kitaurashinzan Oga City, Akita Prefecture
Set Namahagekan (Kitaurashinzan, Oga city) as your destination if you are using GPS.