Welcoming the New Year with a visit from the gods
The Namahage Sedo Festival is a traditional event held in Oga City, Akita Prefecture, japan. It is one of the five major snow festivals in the Michinoku region and has been celebrated since 1964. The festival takes place for three days every year on the second Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of February. It combines the ancient Shinto ritual “Saitosai” with the folkloric Namahage event.
The Namahage Sedo Festival is held at Mayama Shrine, located in the Kitaura district of Oga Peninsula. This sacred shrine has a history of over 900 years and is a significant cultural and religious site in the region. The festival itself is a mesmerizing spectacle, featuring the dances of brave and powerful Namahage demons under the glow of bush lanterns in the shrine’s precincts.
One of the highlights of the festival is the sight of the Namahage descending from the snow-covered mountains, carrying torches in their hands. This dramatic entrance symbolizes the arrival of the gods and is believed to bring good fortune and ward off evil spirits. The Namahage are mythical creatures known for their fierce appearance and loud voices, and they play a vital role in the festival’s traditional rituals.
Another important aspect of the Namahage Sedo Festival is the goma-mochi rice cakes that are roasted on the Sedo fire and given out as good luck charms. These rice cakes are believed to bring prosperity and protection against illness and misfortune. Visitors to the festival can receive these special rice cakes and participate in the rituals, further immersing themselves in the traditional customs of the region.
To experience the Namahage Sedo Festival, visitors can take the JR Oga Line train from Akita Station to Oga City. The journey takes approximately one hour, and from Oga Station, a paid shuttle bus is available to transport visitors to the festival site. This convenient transportation option allows tourists to easily access the festival and enjoy all its offerings.
The Namahage Sedo Festival is deeply rooted in the local culture and folklore of Oga City. Apart from the main festival, there are other folk events that take place simultaneously. On New Year’s Eve, groups of young people dress up as Namahage, wearing masks and straw costumes called “kedeh.” Carrying wooden knives and buckets, they go from house to house, reciting traditional chants and blessings. The Namahage promise the inhabitants of each house health and a fruitful year ahead, and in return, they receive rice cakes and sake as offerings.
This tradition is believed to have originated from the belief that the Namahage creatures serve as messengers of the gods, delivering blessings and warding off evil spirits. The Namahage are seen as protectors of the community, ensuring the well-being and prosperity of the people. The annual Namahage Sedo Festival is an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to witness and participate in these ancient rituals, keeping the traditions alive and passing them down to future generations.
The Namahage Sedo Festival is not only a celebration of tradition and folklore but also a showcase of the rich cultural heritage of Oga City and Akita Prefecture. The festival attracts thousands of visitors each year, both from within Japan and from around the world. It offers a unique cultural experience, allowing people to immerse themselves in the customs and rituals of the region.
In recent years, the Namahage Sedo Festival has gained international recognition and has become a popular tourist attraction. The festival’s unique blend of ancient rituals, folk performances, and stunning winter landscapes make it a must-see event for anyone visiting Japan during the winter season. The festival provides an opportunity to learn about the local history, traditions, and beliefs while enjoying the festive atmosphere and interactions with the local community.
The Namahage Sedo Festival is a testament to the enduring spirit of the people of Oga City and their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage. It serves as a reminder of the importance of tradition and the role it plays in shaping communities and fostering a sense of belonging. The festival brings people together, creating a sense of unity and pride in their shared customs and values.
As with many events and festivals, the Namahage Sedo Festival may be subject to changes in schedule or format due to various factors, including weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances. It is always recommended to check the official website or local tourism information for the most up-to-date details and any additional guidelines or restrictions that may be in place.
In conclusion, the Namahage Sedo Festival is a unique and captivating event that offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Oga City and Akita Prefecture. It provides an opportunity to witness ancient rituals, experience traditional performances, and immerse oneself in the customs and traditions of the region. The festival’s combination of spirituality, folklore, and community celebration creates a truly memorable and meaningful experience for all who attend. Whether you are a local resident or a visitor from afar, the Namahage Sedo Festival is an event not to be missed.
Address And Maps Location:
Mizukuisawa-97 Kitaurashinzan, Oga-shi, Akita-ken