Oga Peninsula

Where Did The Namahage Come From?

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Where Did The Namahage Come From?

Everyone in Japan probably knows a little about the straw-clad demons known as “Namahage.” They probably imagine someone wearing an ogre-like mask, wielding fake knives, and chasing children around while yelling “Any crying kids?? Any bad kids??”

Let us journey to the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. Once known as “Ogajima”, this peninsular region juts out into the Sea of Japan and celebrates New Year’s Eve with Namahage-themed rituals. The Namahage is one of the mask-wearing “Raihoushin” gods that visit Japan once a year. In 2018, the Raihoushin was recorded by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the “Namahage of Oga” has been recognized as a significant intangible folkloric asset of Japan since 1978.

And yet as famous as they are across the nation, it’s not known when or how the Namahage began. Just where in the world did they come from?

Come with us on this trip through four legends surrounding the Namahage. Walk through their lands and arrive at your own answers.

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