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Namahage (生剥)
January 1, 2010 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Namahage (生剥) is a Japanese ritual which is observed throughout Oga Peninsula, Akita Prefecture in northern Honshū, Japan. It is saidto have originated as a ritual for cleansing people's souls, and for blessing the new year.

On New Year's Eve, a group of young men dressed up as fierce demons or bogeymen, Namahage, visit each house in the village, shouting: "any misbehaving kids live here?" They then scare children in the houses, telling them not to be lazy or cry, though little children often do burst into tears. Then the parents will assure the Namahage that there is no bad child in their house, and give food or traditional Japanese alcoholic beverages to the demons.

Other regions of Japan have similar ceremonies. The Noto Peninsula welcomes February with Amamehagi. The masks are crudely carved, and real knives are sometimes still brandished at the children.
posted by KokuRyu (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
No DYS in Japan, then?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:48 AM on January 1, 2010


Those Japanese gore/horror movies suddenly start to make a lot more sense.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:57 AM on January 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, those poor little kids! That little girl was terrified!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:00 AM on January 1, 2010


What a wonderful tradition: giving small children to monsters to be eaten!
posted by sammyo at 10:07 AM on January 1, 2010


Yeah, terrify children into abject obedience based on nightmare fears of monsters. That'll teach 'em for being kids. And grin in amusement while the toddlers are shrieking in fear.
posted by nickyskye at 10:09 AM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think this was originated by early Japanese psychotherapists to ensure a never ending supply of paying customers!
posted by TDavis at 10:38 AM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was pretty much my reaction to Mummenschanz when I was a kid.
posted by phooky at 10:39 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Klingon children would show no fear.
posted by Nelson at 10:44 AM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


A real war on terror would fight to end this tradition.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:54 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Traumatizing children is a universal human impulse. The nature of the traumatization seems to correlate with the most extreme manifestation of the national culture, suggesting causation.

In Japan: Namahage
Result: Tentacle porn
In the US: Bambi
Result: The NRA
posted by Kattullus at 11:02 AM on January 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think this is really a ritual for the parents, to reinforce that their children are dependent on them.

But yeah, in the US, we just have scary, bloody Jesus nail torture to scare the kids.
posted by yarly at 11:48 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


But yeah, in the US, we just have scary, bloody Jesus nail torture to scare the kids.

This is kind of my reaction, too.

Looking back on my childhood, I think I would have preferred the namahage to Jesus, the long-dead man who really, really loves you but is constantly disappointed and saddened by your behavior and will be obliged to send you to hell if you're bad. I mean, it's all a bit convoluted and psychologically messy for kids, isn't it? At least 'if you're bad, the namahage will eat you' establishes a fairly straightforward relationship.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 12:18 PM on January 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hell that's still my reaction to Mummenschanz. Weird tube dragons with toilet paper roll eyes are creepier than any Japanese demon.

I'm not sure why but this makes me remember my friend Satoko's hometown festival dance. Her town 'mascot' was a squid and they had a festival dance that the kids learned in school that involved miming a squid with sort of swishy jazz hands. Satoko doing the squid dance was up near Kero Kero Kerropi on the cute meter.
posted by Babblesort at 12:32 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still remember coworkers in Austria telling me about their encounters with the Krampus as children. Some of them still had residual physical scars from the Krampus' birch rod.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:41 PM on January 1, 2010


Reminds me of a study that argues that:
the collectivist-individualist dimensions of culture coevolve with genetic risk for anxiety and mood disorders. Specifically, they argue that collectivist culture may evolve as an effective buffer in populations more genetically susceptible to these conditions
posted by AlsoMike at 12:56 PM on January 1, 2010


Is it bad of me that I'd like to try that guys job?
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:19 PM on January 1, 2010


New years resolution: get a job in tentacle porn.
posted by cmoj at 1:21 PM on January 1, 2010


*Throws handful of beans at demon*
posted by Iron Rat at 1:25 PM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Namahage is also one of my favorite brands of sake.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:27 PM on January 1, 2010


Great! What mefi needs is more Asian fetishists expressing themselves!
posted by pelham at 1:45 PM on January 1, 2010


Traumatizing children is a universal human impulse.

I was going to make an obligatory DeMausian comment here, but you've beat me to it.

Festivals where adults dress as demons or monsters and frighten children into "being good" are also endemic to European and Slavic culture. Christmas was one such holiday
.
posted by clarknova at 1:53 PM on January 1, 2010


You know, one of the reasons why I rarely post about Japan is stupid, reflexive, derail-ish jokes about tentacle porn. Bleah. Screw you guys.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:53 PM on January 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


But yeah, in the US, we just have scary, bloody Jesus nail torture to scare the kids.

And the Namahage can't see what you're doing all the time, too. Way to creep a child out - bloody Jesus every week who knows all about you and thinks you're a sinner. At least with the Namahage, it's merely once a year AND the child gets to hear the parent stand up in defense of the child, assuring the monster that no bad child lives in that home. More than my parents did for me up against Jesus' crushing disappointment.

When I saw the post, I found it much more reassuring than my childhood experiences with "monsters".
posted by _paegan_ at 2:07 PM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Setsubun is better - you get to throw beans at the demons to scare them away. I think that's a more important lesson to teach kids.
posted by gomichild at 2:41 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Setsubun is better - you get to throw beans at the demons to scare them away. I think that's a more important lesson to teach kids.

Are you kidding? C'mon, gomichild, you know how effin' expensive beans are in Japan! What a waste!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please. What is more frightening than Santa? "He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." Yes he is stalking you and is going to climb down your chimney and "GET YOU."
Santa.
posted by mkim at 5:31 PM on January 1, 2010



You know, one of the reasons why I rarely post about Japan is stupid, reflexive, derail-ish jokes about tentacle porn.


I thought it was a really cool post, KokuRyu, and wish you'd post about Japan more often!

Also, as an aficionado of both Bavarian and Japanese culture, I'm struck by the similarities between Namahage and Krampus, as mentioned by AdamCSnider and clarknova.
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:09 PM on January 1, 2010


"as an aficionado of both Bavarian and Japanese culture, I'm struck by the similarities between Namahage and Krampus"

That was my first thought Infinitywaltz. Hence my previous post. Krampus aka scary santa. Scary Stalker. Boogeyman. Some children do not see Santa as a friend....
posted by mkim at 6:19 PM on January 1, 2010


You know, one of the reasons why I rarely post about Japan is stupid, reflexive, derail-ish jokes about tentacle porn.

I'd much rather live in a country where the first thing that comes to the mind of foreigners is some sort of porn, than pretty well any other national stereotype that I can think of.

OK, maybe not Germany and scat porn, but pretty well any other porn would be fine.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:12 PM on January 1, 2010


KokuRyu: You know, one of the reasons why I rarely post about Japan is stupid, reflexive, derail-ish jokes about tentacle porn. Bleah. Screw you guys.

The joke was supposed to be the NRA/Bambi, with Namahage/tentacle porn only as a setup. I didn't mean to cause offense. That said, it wasn't a very tasteful joke and I shouldn't have made it. I apologize.
posted by Kattullus at 7:37 PM on January 1, 2010


赤ちゃんリト対鬼/Baby Rito vs demon

and...

Chinese baby terrified of his new "Obama haircut"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:46 PM on January 1, 2010


Thanks for the clarification, Katullus, and I'm sorry if I overreacted.

Anyway, there seems to be a band called Namahage from Akita, and the jacket cover features a beautiful illustration of namahage by the famed Japanese folklorist Mizuki Shigeru.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 PM on January 1, 2010


C'mon, gomichild, you know how effin' expensive beans are in Japan! What a waste!

Sure Flapjax - keep 'em on your plate, where they belong!
posted by woodblock100 at 12:43 AM on January 2, 2010


Are you kidding? C'mon, gomichild, you know how effin' expensive beans are in Japan! What a waste!

3 second rule, dude.
posted by gomichild at 5:23 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, gomichild, that's stone-cold. You're like the Batman of setsubun.
posted by No-sword at 2:16 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


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