One of the best travel seasons in Japan is winter! The northern Japan, called Tohoku area, has a lot of winter attractions such as beautiful snow, ski resorts, onsen (hot spring) and winter festivals.
In Akita, we have “Namahage Sedo Festival” which is annually held on the 2nd Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February. Namahage looks like scary demons, but they are said to be the messenger of God actually. The festival prays for good health and harvest and correct people’s behavior. “Oga no Namahage” (Namahage in Oga) has been designated as national important intangible folk cultural property in 1978, and also, UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2018.
Shinzan shrine, the festival site, was crowded with many visitors not only from Akita but from overseas! There was a big bon fire in the center of the site.
In front of it, Namahage performed a brave dance with roar, “Wariko wa inega~~~! Woo~~~!” This means “Are there any crying children? Any lazy people here?” You can feel the full impact! It’s a Namahage tradition to warn lazy people or bad children who do not listen to their parents. So, I’ve heard that many parents traditionally take their children to the annual festival to discipline as well as to pray for their health.
“Namahage Daiko Drumming” was the most exciting part of the festival, I think! Several Namahage had a dynamic taiko-drum performance just in front of the audience. They were so passionate and gorgeous!! You must see it!!
They are so powerful!
After that, there is another event where 15 numbers of Namahage came down from the mountain. Their earthshaking voice was a bit scary, so you should be ready for it! haha!
In addition, you can experience Namahage’s visit (performance) held on New Year’s Eve. They come to each house of Oga city just like that! Scary but interesting! At the end of the festival, you can take pictures with these scary but kind Namahage. Don’t worry! They won’t bite you!
This was the first time for me to participate in this festival. I felt, “It’s worth seeing!” Akita may be a countryside comparing to other big cities around Japan, however, I hope you will enjoy our local attractions such as this traditional Namahage culture, Akita dog, delicious food and Japanese sake and more! Come and have fun!
~~~ Festival Info ~~~
Namahage Sedo Festival (Shinzan shrine)
97 Mizukuisawa, Aza, Kitaura shinzan, Oga city, Akita, Japan
【Schedule】18:00～20:30 (The 2nd Friday・Saturday・Sunday of February every year)
【Admission】1000 yen per person (Free entry for under 18)
＊From JR Akita station: About 1 hour by car・taxi／About 55 minutes by train (JR Oga Line)～ About 40 minutes from Oga station by temporary bus
＊From Akita Airport: About 1 hour and 30 minutes by car・taxi／ About 40 minutes to JR Akita station by limousine bus ～ About 55 minutes by train (JR Oga Line)～ About 40 minutes from Oga station by temporary bus
Written by Naomi in Ugo
*As of February, 2020.