“Namahage” is a very old tradition in Japan which takes place on New Year’s Eve throughout Akita Prefecture’s Oga Peninsula. During the ritual, demon-like beings are believed to come down to the village from the mountains. They are represented by villagers who dress-up as these demons. This Japanese folklore has been used as the theme of a restaurant in Ginza, Akita Dining Namahage. The dining experience at this restaurant is not just about good food but also great entertainment!
— AKITADININGなまはげ仙台店 (@NAMAHAGEsendai) June 23, 2017
Namahage is believed to be a type of ogre in Japanese folklore. However, its origin comes from a particular custom where young people impersonate the spirits (kami) of the Shinto Shrine. Different areas have varying beliefs about the creature, but it is said that these creatures visit each house in the village during New Year’s Eve, demanding to know where the lazy children of the village are. They often ask the crowds of people if there are any cry babies in the village, or any children who don’t listen to their parents!
Namahage demons are commonly believed to dislike people who waste time, and condemn those who live without any purpose. At a namahage ritual, villagers dressed up as namahage demons say that they will take lazy children into the mountains with them. Often, the children are very frightened and they will try to hide! In order to appease the namahage, the parents will offer them “mochi”, which is a delicious Japanese rice cake.
Though they may look frightening, their original purpose is to ward off evil in the house so that the families can have a fruitful year with many blessings. There are so many different theories about namahage, with some people regarding them as drifters from other countries or messengers of a mountain god.
— なまはげ銀座店 (@namahageginza) January 7, 2017
Akita Prefecture is located far from Tokyo, in a northern mountainous area which takes around four hours to reach by train. It would be difficult to visit the area very often to witness the namahage tradition, but you can definitely get a taste of it in Tokyo at Akita Dining Namahage. This restaurant is based on the food and culture of Akita. The restaurant’s atmosphere and decorative style makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a completely different time and place!
The restaurant building itself is actually a reconstructed old farmhouse from Akita Prefecture. There are private booths for diners which look like the traditional snow houses of Kamakura. There are also beautifully lit lanterns that add to the mood of the restaurant.
The food menu offers a great variety of Japanese cuisine to try, such as “kiritanpo,” a freshly cooked rice dish which is pounded, shaped into cylindrical forms and then toasted. This is a very popular winter food in Akita. The restaurant also has a great collection of sake you can try, sourced from 38 local breweries. Your meal will be accompanied by namahage performances which you can enjoy while dining. The opening times are from 5:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Akita Dining Namahage is a unique and authentic restaurant, where you can experience the fascinating traditional culture of Akita Prefecture without traveling to the area itself. The restaurant has a cool theme offering traditional entertainment and delicious local Japanese dishes!