Shinzan Shrine, Akita
As a festivity based on frightening misbehaving children, the Namahage Festival in Oga (Akita) is well known for its quirky and humorous nature.
Each year at the end of December, a selected group of men dress in straw and coloured masks to represent terrifying ogres. After visiting the Shinzan Shrine to be possessed by the Namahage spirit, the ‘ogres’ head out to each home in the district to bless the families within. In return, the ogres are offered sake alcohol and mochi rice balls.
While the ogres are viewed as good luck omens to cleanse evil spirits, their appearance is unsettling to children. In order to deter children of future misbehaviour, the ogres warn children to listen to their parents, not be lazy, and to not cry unnecessarily or else they run the risk of being kidnapped by the ogres in the coming year. Quite often the parents will know the man portraying the ogre, and will ask for specific behaviour issues to be addressed with their children upon the ogre’s visit to their home.
A video clip of namahage ogres at a festival (the red masks represent male ogres, the blue mean female): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj-r654JcEc
Television shows tend to broadcast the event and create parodies; such as the ‘zombie’ (this television segment is still used in primary schools around Japan to highlight the importance of teamwork): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUrP01kPRZs