Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Encounter Japan's Scariest God At Oga Namahage Museum In Akita
Written by LIFE STYLE, Inc.
Japan is known for its many festivities and cultural events throughout the year. This time we would like to feature the scariest deity - Namahage, specific to Akita prefecture, and the logcal Oga Namahage Museum.
With many traditional festivals and events in Japan, the scariest event for children is the encounter with the Namahage. It is an annual ceremonial event where a creature called Namahage runs errands for the mountain Gods and searches for children on the night of December 31st.
Usually, the parents or grandparents of the children are wearing the Namahage costume, but many children who witness the Namahage for the first time begin to cry at their fearsome appearances.
This time, we would like to introduce the Oga Namahage Museum where you can see the traditional Namahage of Akita.
Oga Namahage Museum Location
Oga Namahage Museum is located on the western side of Akita prefecture, on the Oga Penninsula that faces the Sea of Japan.
From Tokyo Station, you can reach Akita Station in four hours by bullet train. From there, transfer to the JR Oga line for about an hour until you reach the Hadachi Station where the Oga Namahage Museum is located.
The History of Namahage
The Namahage was designated as an important intangible folk cultural property of Japan in 1978.
On the evening of December 31st, the Namahage goes from house to house calling out "Namakemono wa inega. Nakuko wa inega” (Where are the lazy folk? Where are the crying children?) During this time, children hide in the closet or behind dressers until the Namahage leaves their house.
Namahage are not actually supposed to be scary and are known to be Gods who fight evil, ward off disasters, and bring fertility to the land and sea. However, due to their scary appearance, this tradition also became known as a celebration where children cry.
Enter the Oga Namahage Museum
Let's go in and check out the Oga Namahage Museum.
The Oga Namahage Museum has a unique stone wall exterior, which is made from the Oga stones that are found in Akita. The Oga stone is otherwise known as the ”kanpuseki” (cold wind stone). It is not only hard but can endure the heat well while keeping an aesthetic that blends well with nature.
Hover your mouse over the image, then click and drag to zoom in and out while looking at the surrounding scenery.
Once you enter, a red Namahage will welcome you into the museum. Standard Namahage are usually either red or blue. The red is called the ”Jiji-Namahage” (Old Man Ogre) and the blue are called the ”Baba-Namahage” (Old Woman Ogre).
By the foot of the Namahage, you will find the straws that make the outfit of the Namahage. If you make an offering of some money, you are welcome to take some of the straw home as a good luck charm.
As you continue, you will find a space called the Mystery Hall. Here, you will be able to learn about the climate of Oga along with displays of authentic daily items, videos, graphic panels that are very educational.
Dress-up as a Namahage!
Behind the display area, there is a corner where you can dress up as a Namahage! After putting on the outfit called the 'kede', you wear straw shin guards called the 'habaki' and then place the iconic mask on your head. Lastly, grab a knife and you've got the complete Namahage look.
Photos are most welcome, so why not take a memorable photo of your fearful Namahage look during your visit here?
At the very end of the museum, there is a suspicious noren (a fabric sign) that says ”Namahage Seizoroi” (Namahage line up). After entering you will see...
A massive display of 150 Namahage! Real Namahage masks that were once used in various areas of Oga city are on display. From frizzy hair, different color faces, horns, mouths, fangs, and more. There is not a single Namahage mask that is alike - they come in so many designs!
What do you think of this original culture that has been passed down through the ages by the people of Oga? It may be scary at first, but if you know the history and background of the Namahage, you may be able to see the charm behind their scary face.
Oga Namahage Museum
Address: Akita, Oga city, Kitaurashinzan Mizukuisawa
Closed: Open all year
WiFi: Not available
Credit Cards: Not available
Menu/Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean
Nearest Station: JR Hadachi Station (羽立駅)
Access: 15 minute taxi drive from JR Hadachi Station
Price: Standard: 500 yen (540 yen with tax), Elementary/Middle school/High school students 250 yen (270 yen with tax)
Phone Number: +81-0185-22-5050
Website: Oga Namahage Museum