Friday, February 15, 2008

Namahage Matsuri 2008

I went to a Japanese matsuri (festival) in Oga, Akita last Saturday. The festival is called Namahage Matsuri, and were usually held at the beginning of a new year. I don’t really have a full understanding of the festival, but from what I can decipher from my visit to the namahage museum, namahage are japanese demons/ogres that came down from the mountains to search for ‘bad’ children and to wish the farmers good luck and prosperity. And no, they don’t rape those bad children; they just scare the shit out of them.

I went with the university tour program and the first place we stopped is at the namahage museum I mentioned before. The museum is packed with namahage stuff. They even sell hello kitty namahage keitai (cellphone) straps! I also got to try the namahage costume myself!

Then we went to this fancy onsen (hotspring) hotel to eat lunch. We had seafood nabe, smoked salmon, some other stuff and of course rice. The food is definitely nice! After filling up some energy into our bodies, we went back to the bus and straight to the namagahe festival!

The festival was held in the middle of the jungle, beside a shito shrine. There were a lot of people that mobility is limited and I can’t really take any good picture of the damned namagahe because dumb people were always blocking my view.

First, the people posing as namahage did some shito ritual shit that I don’t understand, and then they went up a small stage, dancing and playing the Japanese taiko (big drums). After that, they light up some torch and went uphill to do another ritual shit symbolising the return of the namahage to the mountains, and then they came back down to mingle with the humans downhill. At this point, it’s a fucking chaos with everybody wanting to take pictures and have the change to grab some of the stray the namahage guys were wearing, because it was believed that if you got some of that stray, you’d have a prosperous life the whole year. Everybody knows that it is utter bullshit but that does not stop the girl from the picture above to be super excited that she caught several long straw of garbage.

There was a lot of smoke from the praying and firewood, so I was coughing all night because I’m allergic to smoke. It was not very nice because soon I was feeling very dizzy and sick from the damned smoke. Worse, there were also a lot of greasy old bastards who smoked cigarette like it’s the end of the world tomorrow. Damn, why are people so dumb to suck on such smelly, disgusting smoke?

All in all, it was not a bad festival. I was just a bit disappointed that I couldn’t see more of the festival because there were too much people blocking my view.

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