The Namahage represents the mountain gods in traditional folklore
In the long, cold winters of Akita Prefecture’s Oga Peninsula, an extraordinary tradition was born. The demonic mask of the Namahage is the face of the local mountain gods, who descend from their snowy peaks once a year to bring words of warning and good fortune to the people down below. The tradition has been passed down from one generation to the next.
On New Year’s Eve, men wearing ferocious ogre masks, shaggy wigs and straw capes move from door to door visiting homes, sometimes brandishing prop knives. Like another familiar winter visitor, the Namahage put on a dramatic performance to find out which children and adults in the house have been naughty or nice during the previous year. The head of the household then promises to keep their family healthy and safe, offers the Namahage a drink, and sends them on to the next household. The design of costumes and masks varies throughout Oga, yet the wild hair, horns, and fangs all have a very powerful effect on those who encounter them.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse into this fascinating world at the Namahage Museum, located on the Oga Peninsula, the birthplace of the ancient custom. The museum displays over 150 of the fearsome Namahage masks, and offers the brave of heart a chance to slip into one themselves.
Trained masters carve Namahage masks
Men in Namahage masks and straw capes performing a traditional New Years’ ritual
- Namahage Museum
- Mizukuisawa, Kitaura-Shinzan, Oga City, Akita Prefecture 010-0686
- +81 185 22 5050
- Open hours:
- 8:30 – 17:00
- About 15 minutes by car from JR Hadachi Station
- Not only exhibits on Namahage’s side but also transformation corners and souvenir corners that can take a memorial photo of Namahage’s costumes.
Entrace fee: adults are 540 yen each and children are 270 yen each.