Namahage Folk Ritual Coming Back from Virus-Caused Cancellations

Society Culture

Oga, Akita Pref., Dec. 28 (Jiji Press)--The traditional Namahage divine visit ritual in Oga, Akita Prefecture, northeastern Japan, is making a comeback in many neighborhoods that canceled the annual event last year due to the novel coronavirus crisis.

Although close to 70 pct of districts in the city have decided to host the Namahage this year following a decline in infection cases, citizens are still split over how the traditional practice should be balanced with lifestyle changes brought by the coronavirus.

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 mountains who admonish people, ward off calamity and bring about a good harvest and catch. Locals offer them food and alcohol.

According to the Oga city government, of the 93 districts that have held the event in the past three years, 58 canceled it last year due to the virus crisis. On the other hand, only 25 have canceled it this year while 62 have decided to hold it and six are still considering their options.

The city's Okura district decided to continue the measure it took last year of limiting ogre visits to just the entrances of homes. It will also continue to require people dressed as ogres to wear face masks under their ogre masks and decline food and alcohol offerings.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press