Watch out for masked demons on the hunt for ‘lazy’ villagers!
It all starts with the ‘nagome’
Nagome are blisters that usually appear on thighs and shins on people who spend too much time idling by the irori (Japanese hearth) all day long. Such people in the Asanai area of Noshiro City were deemed to be ‘too lazy’ and therefore punished by god-like demons.
‘Nagomehagi’ – what happens during the hunt
In the past, the ‘Nagomehagi’ ceremony was held as a small New Year’s event to punish those with nagome. Local youths dressed up as masked demons would go around the village in search of lazy people and peel off their nagome (nagome-hagi). Nowadays, instead of devil mask, people dressed in straw robes wear ‘banraku’ masks on New Year’s Eve and go around the village as mountain gods warning local children to not be lazy and offer words of encouragement to the elderly.
What’s the story behind it?
Selected as an ‘intangible folk cultural property that should be documented’ in 1981, this winter tradition is now carried out by the Asanai Nagomehagi Preservation Society. The purpose of this event is to purify the year’s bad luck and usher in a clean and fresh start to the new year. Their signature phrase ‘egunee warashi, enegaaaa?’ means ‘Any bad kids?’ in the Akita dialect.
Fun factーthis ritual is similar to the famous ‘Namahage’ festival in Oga City located a 45-minute drive away from the Akita Shirakami area!
- In the Asanai area in Noshiro City