Japan is not a country short on UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Properties and Cultural Heritages. In the most recent additions to the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages, a rather frightening tradition has recieved recognition.
‘Raiho-shin’ is the Japanese folk tradition of local people dressing up like deities, with outlandish costumes and genuinely scary masks. They then go into town, or even enter neighbourhood homes, scaring children into being good for the rest of the year.
The ritual takes place in various forms in several areas of Japan, especially in the Tohoku, Hokuriku, Kyushu and Okinawa regions. Often, they celebrate the new year or a change in seasons.
In Akita prefecture and other northern areas, the visitors are called namahage. On New Year’s Eve, men dress in straw capes and terrifying masks and do a round of the neighbourhood, entering homes looking for naughty children. The namahage can be abated with gifts like mochi or sake.
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