New Year’s traditions vary all over the world - the Dutch eat oliebollen, the Scots go “first footing”, and in Japan, the Namahage descend upon the locals.
New Year’s traditions vary all over the world - the Dutch eat oliebollen, the Scots go “first footing”, and in Japan, the Namahage descend upon the locals. People dressed in frightening ogre masks and wearing straw capes run around, brandishing fake knives, searching for naughty children to reprimand and mochi to eat.
In folklore, the Namahage were a group of ogres who would terrify local towns and kidnap young women. One day the villagers agreed that the women would hand themselves over to the Namahage but only if the ogres could build a massive stone staircase by morning. If they didn’t finish it, the Namahage must leave forever. The villagers then tricked the Namahage by mimicking a rooster’s cry and making the ogres believe that they’d failed. Gotcha, ogres!
Now though, the Namahage festival takes place on New Year’s Eve and is a fun affair and the locals dressed as the beasts run around, checking if children have been naughty or nice. The best way to keep a Namahage off your back is to offer it some sake or some mochi!