Namahage Sedo Festival

Welcoming the New Year with a visit from the gods

The Namahage Sedo Festival is a traditional event that takes place in Oga City, Akita Prefecture, japan. It is one of five major snow festivals in the region and has been celebrated since 1964. The festival combines the 900-year-old Shinto ritual “Saitosai” with the folkloric Namahage event, creating a unique and captivating experience for visitors.

The Namahage Sedo Festival is held for three days every year on the second Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of February. It takes place at Mayama Shrine in the Kitaura district of Oga Peninsula, which is located northwest of Akita City. The festival draws a large number of locals and tourists who come to witness the mesmerizing dances of brave and powerful Namahage demons under the glow of bush lanterns in the shrine’s precincts.

The Namahage are mythical creatures in Japanese folklore known for their fearsome appearance and loud, booming voices. They are believed to be deities or spirits who visit homes on New Year’s Eve to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune for the coming year. During the festival, groups of youths dress up as Namahage by donning masks and straw costumes called “kedeh.” They go from house to house, carrying wooden knives and buckets, shouting auspicious phrases such as “There is no child who cries, there is no child who does not listen to his parents,” and “The wife of this house wakes up early.”

When the Namahage receive rice cakes and sake from the head of each family, they leave the house, promising that the inhabitants will be blessed with health and a good harvest in the following year. This tradition is deeply rooted in the local culture and is seen as a way to purify and renew the spirits of the community.

The festival also includes various other local folk events that take place at the same time. These events add to the festive atmosphere and provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the region’s traditions and customs. One of the highlights of the festival is the sight of Namahage with torches in their hands coming down from the snow-covered mountains. This spectacle is both awe-inspiring and symbolic, representing the descent of the gods to bless the land and its people.

Another popular aspect of the Namahage Sedo Festival is the goma-mochi rice cakes. These rice cakes are roasted on the Sedo fire and given out as good luck charms to festival-goers. The belief is that by eating these rice cakes, one will receive blessings and protection from the Namahage.

To experience the Namahage Sedo Festival in Oga City, one can take the JR Oga Line train from Akita Station. The journey takes approximately one hour to reach Oga City. From Oga Station, a paid shuttle bus is available to transport visitors to the festival site. This convenient transportation option ensures that visitors can easily access the festival and enjoy its various attractions.

The Namahage Sedo Festival is not only a celebration of tradition and folklore but also a testament to the resilience and spirit of the local community. Despite its long history, the festival continues to evolve and adapt to the changing times, attracting visitors from all over the world who are eager to witness this unique cultural event.

In addition to its cultural significance, the festival also plays an important role in promoting tourism in the region. The Namahage Sedo Festival has gained recognition as one of Japan’s must-see winter festivals, drawing tourists who are interested in experiencing traditional Japanese culture and exploring the beautiful landscapes of Akita Prefecture.

The festival offers a glimpse into the rich heritage and customs of the region, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the local traditions and interact with the friendly and welcoming community. It provides a unique opportunity to learn about the history and folklore of the Namahage and gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual beliefs that have shaped the culture of Akita Prefecture.

As with many traditional events, the Namahage Sedo Festival is subject to change, and it is advisable to check the official website for the most up-to-date information. Visitors should also be aware of any COVID-19-related restrictions or guidelines that may be in place during the festival.

In conclusion, the Namahage Sedo Festival is a mesmerizing and enchanting event that offers a unique insight into the cultural heritage of Akita Prefecture. From the powerful dances of the Namahage demons to the symbolic rituals and traditions, the festival is a celebration of community, tradition, and spirituality. It is an experience that should not be missed by anyone interested in immersing themselves in the rich tapestry of Japanese culture. So, if you find yourself in Oga City in February, make sure to join in the festivities and welcome the New Year with a visit from the gods.

Address And Maps Location:

Mizukuisawa-97 Kitaurashinzan, Oga-shi, Akita-ken

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