If you are a kid in Northern Japan this time of year, you have to be on your toes and your best behavior. Those kids who are not behaved are dragged to hell to be tortured by the demons for an eternity. While this may sound like a Japanese version of Krampus or “black Santa” as they call him in Japan, but this is a whole new level of child abuse.
Every year around the world Santa goes around the world spreading cheer and presents, but what happens after he is gone, when the kids don’t have to be on their best behavior anymore? Well, if you are in Japan you have to worry about Namahage/Amahage.
So, what are the Namahage? Well the short answer is that they are demons. There are many stories that tell of the origins of the Namahage, for example one story states that a king form China brought them with him a long time ago and they liked the land so much they stayed in Japan when the king stayed.
There are other stories reaching back to the origin stories of Japan and how some demons escaped hell and were left to roam around because they couldn’t do any real harm. The story you heat is dependent on the area you live in, but almost every prefecture has at least one story about these demons, or at last the people have a knowledge of them.
So what are the demons there for? Every year, during the first week or so of the new year a group of men are chosen to dress up in the traditional Namahage costumes and parade around the neighborhoods dragging heave metal chains, wielding giant swords and studded clubs. They go to people’s houses to look for naughty children to eat and take to hell with them.
If the kids promise to behave they can stay with their parents, but if they continue to misbehave they will be taken by the Namahage. This is a form of ritualized child abuse that parents gladly pay for to keep their children in line. This is a tradition that helpd to make kids behave and fit into the “norm” way of acting, something that is still very prevalent in Japanese culture. Now while this isn’t the worst thing that can happen to children it is something the most Westerners look down upon.
In the end, this is a tradition that has degraded from really taking kids until they almost die of freight, to the modern day “call a demon” service Who know what the future holds for this tradition in Japan, the Namahage may someday end up in just folk lore a bad memory of the parents of the next generation.
This was hardly an exhaustive article on the Nagahame in Japan and there is a lot more to the story. Today’s article was just meant to be a brief introduction to the basic background of this tradition. What do you think about this? Does your country have a tradition like this to keep kids in line? Would you order a Namahage to come to your house? Please share, I would love to know what you think.