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Monday, 4th January 2016
In Japan Entertainment News,

Push for Namahage deity visits to be added to UNESCO heritage list

A number of local municipalities in Japan are working to get a bizarre cultural practice added to a prestigious United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list.

They hope to see the tradition of people dressed as gods and demons visiting houses to bring good fortune at the turn of the year included on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The city of Oga, which can be found in the Akita Prefecture in north-eastern Japan, is leading the move to get Namahage deity visits recognised in this manner.

It is renowned for being one of the places in Japan where the practice is common, with men wearing masks and straw capes visit houses on New Year’s Eve.

The appear with large wooden knives and shout, trying to rouse any naughty children or lazy people that live in the house.

In return, they are given food and drink, promising good luck to the family for the coming year when they leave.

Other places where Namahage deity visits can be observed include towns in Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ishikawa, Saga, Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures.

No fewer than eight municipalities from across the seven prefectures have joined Oga to form a committee to promote the practice and hopefully have it recognised on this list this year.

Like many traditional practices, there are fewer young people taking part in Namahage deity visits, meaning it could die out if efforts to preserve it are not made.

In recent years, it has become more widespread for the deities to be received in the entrance to houses, as opposed to letting them inside, as the straw costumes can make a lot of mess.

An official from the Oga city government said: “We hope local residents will feel proud of the tradition if it becomes part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and will be motivated to continue it.”

Related news stories:
Japan hopes to add Fukuoka ancient monuments to UNESCO list (29th July 2015)
Japanese cuisine poised for UNESCO list (2nd December 2013)