Guardian Angel in Akita


A monster?
Monsters with a scary mask come neighborhood in Akita in mid-January which is New Year’s time in the old calendar. They go into the family with children even without doorbell and scare them. People call them “Yamahage” at Yuwa district of Akita and kids are scared of them. Yamahage is a monster when they reach children and scream “Aren’t you naughty?”秋田市雄和ではその大人たちを「やまはげ」と呼び、子供達はその日を恐れています。「お母さんの言うことをちゃんと聞いてるか?」と怒鳴りつけるその様子はまさに鬼そのものです。

“Yamahage” as a Guardian of the Community
Yamahage means a lot for the residents. Men in the community play the role of Yamahage that people know each other well. They also met and scared by Yamahage when they were young. Now it’s their turn to be Yamahage and raise children of next generation. This event only works when people in the community know each other very well. This is also a sign that they watch and raise children as a whole community.

Straw as an Amulet
Yamahage sometimes leave straws from their garments at home. Children pick it up and keep it as an amulet of the year. Parents in this district tell their children “I will call Yamahage” when they are naughty.

(Exchange student from Mexico)

I felt sorry for children when I first saw this. Break into someone’s house without doorbell do not happen in Mexico. But it got very interesting when I gradually started to understand what people in the community is trying to tell.

People in the community came to say “Hi” and “Thank you” when I was walking the neighborhood with the costume of Yamahage. An old lady over the age of 80 once came outside of the house and made a bow to us. I understood the importance of Yamahage to this community.

I was surprised that each family prepares some alcohol for Yamahage. All Yamahage were drunk when we finished since we visited 20 houses in a night. It is a fascinating event that involves the whole community in the snowing winter of Akita.