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Namahage Sedo Festival
The Namahage Sedo Festival is considered one of the five biggest snow festivals in Michinoku. It started in February 1964 as a joint festival combining the Namahage local ritual in Oga Peninsula with the Shinto rituals of the Sedo Festival at Shinzan Shrine (in Kitaura, Oga City, Akita Prefecture), which have been held for approximately 900 years.
Tourists from across the country come to experience the beautiful Namahage on the Oga Peninsula, with Namahage Ritual Recreation (reproducing the New Year’s Eve Namahage within Shinzan Shrine, which is illuminated with brushwood lamps), Namahage Taiko, and more taking place. The festival’s climax is Namahage Shimoyama, where Namahage-masked men carry torches in the dark, changing “ohhh, ohhh” as they descend the mountain. The sight is bold and incredible.
Located a five-minute walk from Shinzan Shrine is Namahage Hall, where you can enjoy exhibits of Namahage masks from various regions in Oga, a corner showing the mask transformation, and a recreation of the New Year’s Eve Namahage ritual among the thatched roof houses typical of the Oga region at the adjacent Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum.
Oga City, Akita Prefecture
Second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February
Akita Kanto Festival
One of the most famous summer festivals in the Tohoku region, the Akita Kanto Festival is also known as one of several lantern-based festivals in Japan. The festival originates from the Neburi Nagashi ritual to drive away mid-summer devils and evil. In the travel journals of Soan Tsumura, written long ago in 1789, Neburi Nagashi is introduced as taking place on July 6 in the lunar calendar, and is noted as the basis for the current Kanto Festival.
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Bringing down rice bale-shaped lanterns, the streets fill with approximately 280 kanto lanterns, which are held up by the ears of rice plants. It looks just like the Milky Way that illuminates the summer night sky. There are several sizes of kanto lanterns. A total of 46 of the largest lanterns (called Owaka) hang from nine rows of bamboo, reaching approximately 12 meters high and weighing 50 kilograms. The hands holding these large lanterns exhibit exquisite balance, skillfully manipulating their foreheads, shoulders, and waists, as a festive mood unfolds with the sound of taiko and flutes.
At the plaza in front of Akita Station, you can try out miniature kanto lamps in a hands-on corner, and you can view the exquisite skill of the lamp operators at a noon-time performance. Furthermore, there is time at the end of the evening kanto lamp performance to interact with the performers. You are also encouraged to participate in the hands-on lamp experience and take photos of the lamps protruding out of bags on the boulevard.
Akita City, Akita Prefecture