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Namahage ナ マ ハ ゲ In the list of Intangible Heritage of UNESCO

  oga no namahage akita prefecture


The Namahage ナ マ ハ ゲ, one of the most famous Japanese rituals, are included in the UNESCO list of intangible heritage, let's discovery the differences between the prefectures.

For the second time, Japan tries to bring these particular rituals of tradition into the UNESCO list of intangible heritage after an initial rejection in 2011.

In 2009, the traditional Toshidon event held on Shimokoshikijima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture was already on the list,  and because of this Oga's request to be able to add its Namahage festival was rejected becouse as similar in the performance and in the "philosophy" to that already inserted by Toshidon.

We know the tenacity of the Japanese, they didn't give up and in 2014 a committee was created that gathered 8 prefectures including Oga (Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ishikawa, Saga, Kagoshima and Okinawa) to carry out the demand together unitary and see also these local traditions included in the List and finaly they did.


namahage project

What are the Namahage ナ マ ハ ゲ? It is an ancient tradition that has been held in Japan for many centuries, although unfortunately lately it is waning (even for this reason it is right to protect it).

In Oga, for example, people in the neighborhood wear straw hoods and fierce-looking masks that look like demons due to Oni and visit the neighborhood homes on New Year's Eve. They go in very loudly and look for the children and their families asking if they are disobedient or lazy. Often they have "weapons" with them as wooden or cardboard knives, and with their loud and shrill voices and screams frighten children.

Some might find this unacceptable, often we see children terrified and crying in the arms of mothers, but it is a tradition that has been handed down for centuries, and the aim is to "educate" the child, who knows that if he/she does the bad or if it is lazy, the Namahage will come and get it.

Although those of the prefecture of Akita are the most known many other prefectures have similar traditions, the purpose is the same, varies slightly, but the way and especially the costumes and masks vary depending on the prefecture.

Below an example of the Namahage connected to the prefectures that have proposed the proposals to be included in the UNESCO list:

oga no namahage akita    Oga no Namahage Akita  Prefecture

akuseki jima no boze      Akusekijima no boze,  Kagoshima Prefecture  

Mishima no Kasedori Saga Pref    Mishima no Kasedori Saga Prefecture

Miyakojima no Paantou Okinawa Pref   Miyakojima no Paantou Okinawa Prefecture

Noto no Amamehagi Ishikawa Pref   Noto no Amamehagi Ishikawa Prefecture

satsuma iōjima no mendon   Satsuma Iōjima no Mendon Kagoshima Prefecture  

Toshidon Koshikijima Islands Kagoshima prefecture   Toshidon Koshikijima Islands Kagoshima prefecture

Yonekawa no Mizukaburi Miyagi Pref   Yonekawa no Mizukaburi Miyagi Prefecture

Yoshihama no Suneka Iwate Pref   Yoshihama no Suneka Iwate Prefecture

Yuza no koshōgatsu gyōji yamagata   Yuza no koshōgatsu gyōji  Yamagata

As can be seen despite the geographical distances, these traditions and rites have masks and costumes that resemble each other, even if they differ in their rites.
It is important to preserve and make known these differences, the set of a centenary culture that attracts and attracts every year many visitors not only from the prefectures close to the events but also foreign.


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