Coronavirus Crisis Puts Namahage Folk Ritual at Risk
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Oga, Akita Pref., Dec. 8 (Jiji Press)--The traditional Namahage divine visit ritual in Oga, Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan, is under threat as citizens are split over whether the annual event should be held amid the novel coronavirus epidemic.
Seven districts in the city have decided to hold it this year, while six have decided to suspend it and 80 are still considering options.
The city government is calling on its districts to host the Namahage event in order to preserve tradition, distributing documents on infection prevention measures in mid-November to districts aiming to hold it.
"Once it stops, it will be hard to resume," Mayor Koji Sugawara said at a press conference.
In the ritual, people dressed as ogres visit homes in the region on New Year's Eve, telling children to behave by shouting, "Are there any crying kids?" in the local dialect. The ogres are said to represent the gods of the mountains who admonish people and ward off calamity, and locals offer them food and alcohol.
[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]