The history and origin of The Namahage Sedo Festival.
It is said that the Namahage Sedo Festival originally started as the Yuki Matsuri held at the Hoshi-tsuji shrine in Kitaura-yumoto to promote the tourism in Oga's hot spring village during the winter season. Keikichi Sugawara (who became the mayor of Oga city later on) led the movement with Tamanosuke Nara (a folklorist and member of the Akita city council), who advised him to adopt the Sedo Festival which was usually held in the Shinzan shrine.
Until its 3rd time, the festival was held at the Hoshi-tsuji shrine. After that it was relocated to the Shinzan shrine due to the increased numbers of the audience. After going through several changes throughout the half-century, it changed to the current style.
In 1974, they once had the festival at the Hoshi-tsuji shrine because they couldn't plow away all the heavy snow that year at the Shinzan shrine. Up to today, the festival has never been cancelled.
In the good old days, Japanese Enka songs and folk singers were invited to perform, and tug of war matches were held among teams from local areas in Oga city. The festival used to have events that were more familiar to the local residents than it has now.
Oga no Namahage
On New Year’s Eve, men from each village dressed as Namahage visit homes in the district while shouting out whether there are any crying babies or misbehaving children, or whether the young wife of the household is an early riser.
For the people of Oga, the Namahage are deities who visit at the end of the year to admonish laziness, and bear tidings of good health, good harvests, and products from the mountains and oceans. At the homes they visit, the Namahage deities are received courteously and served food and sake in accordance with traditional custom.
Historically, the Namahage event of Oga City took place during Ko-shogatsu (Little New Year, around January 15th), but is now held on New Year’s Eve in some 85 villages.
In 2018, Oga no Namahage was designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. (that was already designated as national important intangible folk cultural property in 1978)