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Inviting the uninvited guest: ritual, festival, tourism, and the Namahage of Japan
Journal of American Folklore. 126.501 (Summer 2013): p302+.

Namahage is a Japanese New Year's Eve ritual in which masked demon-deity figures enter private households to chase and frighten children. The first half of this article situates Namahage within the historical and theoretical context of Japanese folkloristics, and discusses strategies employed by the community to adapt the tradition for tourism. The second half further explores the role of tourism, particularly by invoking the notion of the "uninvited guest" and the process by which private ritual transforms into public performance. It is argued that one way to understand heritage tourism is to shift questions of "authenticity" from the object of tourism to the embodied subject of the visitor.

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Part I: Welcome to Oga!

at first glance the oga peninsula in Japan's Akita Prefecture does not seem to welcome strangers. Jutting out into the Sea of Japan, this region in the chilly northeast of the country is characterized by its geographic isolation, by the deep snows that blanket it every winter, and by the distinct dialect of its inhabitants. Signs at the train station and elsewhere resonate with the inhospitable countenance of the land: a toothy horned demon brandishes a knife aloft in a threatening gesture. But, ironically, the words accompanying the image read: "Welcome to Oga!" (fig. 1)

This image, simultaneously threatening and welcoming, represents a demon-deity figure that comes to life in a ritual performed every New Year's Eve in Oga. On that evening, young men wrap themselves in straw coats and don colorful masks made from painted wood. Clutching gigantic wooden knives and long staffs, they tramp through the snowy streets from house to house, banging on the doors and demanding entrance. Once inside, they search for children, roaring and chasing them around the room, often frightening them to tears. They then receive offerings of food and sake from the residents, bless them with fortune for the coming year, and continue on to the next household.

The demon-deity figure itself, as well as the event in which it features as the main protagonist, is known as "Namahage." The Namahage tradition clearly shares affinities with mumming and similar practices in various parts of the world; in Japan alone it is cognate with, or at least structurally similar to, numerous other rituals found throughout the archipelago. (1) Namahage as practiced in Oga, however, is the most famous postwar incarnation of such events in Japan. Folklorists have studied it for decades, scenes of the ritual are broadcast nationwide on television, and the name "Namahage" is recognized throughout the country. In recent years, the Namahage has become iconographic of Oga, and by extension, all of Akita Prefecture. The demon image and the word Namahage can be found on signs and merchandise labels throughout the region, and the custom itself has developed into a performance event drawing tourists from all over Japan.


This development into a tourist attraction is particularly significant because, as a tradition in which demon-deities burst into a household, Namahage ritualizes transgression and the breaching of boundaries by outside forces. This theme, of course, resonates powerfully with tourism, structured as it often is around the incursion of outsiders into a community. In the pages that follow, I explore the contingent relationship of local tradition and domestic tourism through the particular ways it plays out in contemporary Oga. The Namahage is an especially instructive case because of its enmeshment in the discursive history of Japanese folkloristics in which it became, for several influential scholars, emblematic of an authentic, disappearing past.

In the first part of the essay, I situate Namahage within the broader context of twentieth-century folkloristic discourses in Japan, particularly the ideas of foundational scholars Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu. Then I show how Oga residents in recent years have adapted the Namahage tradition in ways that neatly accommodate their own changing economic circumstances and the touristic desire to visit. Through briefly examining these adaptations, we gain insight into ways a local community interacts with visitors to produce, and reproduce, heritage.

The second part of this essay expands on these observations by applying a little-known idea developed by Orikuchi Shinobu. Orikuchi's notion of the "uninvited guest" is valuable for understanding ritual and sightseeing as part of the same process; with regard to Namahage, this process creates a new version of Namahage, a festival held at a time and place distinct from the older New Year's Eve versions. An examination of this festival in turn sheds light on a broader issue that has haunted the study of heritage tourism for decades--the question of authenticity, and the particular paradoxes it spawns. Ultimately, I argue, one way to understand heritage tourism is to shift the source of authenticity from the object of tourism to the affective, embodied subject of the visitor. Though I focus only on Namahage, I hope my analysis will be of some relevance for theorizing how similar traditions operate elsewhere.

New Year's Eve: The Traditional Tradition

Several theories account for the origin of the word "Namahage," but the most common explanation posits that the words namomi, namamo, and similar variations are Oga dialect for a skin condition (cutis marmorata) characterized by reddish mottling, spots, or blisters on the legs said to be caused by prolonged exposure to the heat of an irori hearth. Because presumably the condition is evidence of laziness--of spending too much time next to the fire during the winter months--the Namahage threatens to tear off (hagasu or hagitoru) the spots as a form of punishment. It is from this notion of namomi o hagitoru that the contraction namahage developed. (See Ine 1985:28-30; Ine 2005:13; Yamamoto 1978:37-8; Taira 2008a:111; and Sato and Yasuda 2008:431.) (2)

Namahage is indeed always associated with the dead of winter and with New Year's Eve in particular. (3) It has historically been enacted in at least 78 different hamlets throughout the Oga Peninsula, and there is accordingly a wide range of variation with regard to participation, procedure, costume, and origin legend; it would, of course, be impossible to experience or represent them all. (4) The present article is based primarily on fieldwork conducted in the hamlet of Yumoto and is necessarily specific to what I experienced there. Yumoto is an especially appropriate place to explore the dynamic between tourist and tradition because it is the location of several hot spring (onsen) hotels that cater primarily to Japanese domestic tourists. (5)

Events in Yumoto commence at about eight in the evening when men and boys gather at the community center (kominkan). All participants are male; this includes the older community members who oversee the process, the young boys who watch, and the Namahage themselves, who are almost always unmarried men, usually in their late teens or early twenties. One older participant explained that, historically, only upstanding young men were allowed to play the role of the Namahage; in recent years, he lamented, as more and more people leave for school and employment in the cities, the honor of wearing the mask is increasingly less selective. (6)

In the community center the older men help the younger men dress in long straw coats (mino) known locally as kede (also kende or kedashi). They wear gloves and shoes covered with straw, and they carry knives (made of wood) and long sticks adorned with white strips of paper (gohei). In Yumoto, the masks worn by the Namahage are painted either red or blue, with the Namahage traveling in pairs consisting of one of each color (fig. 2). After completing their preparations, the Namahage make their rounds from house to house guided by several older men and accompanied by a few younger boys who collect a small sum of money after each household visit (fig. 3).

Upon entering the household, the Namahage's task is to frighten the children--ranging in age from two years to seven or eight. Roaring and stamping, the Namahage chase the children around the room, shouting such threats as: "Are there any crying kids here? I'll eat their ears! Are there any bad kids here? I'll take them away to the mountains." (7) It is not unusual for the frightened children to run crying to the protecting arms of parents or grandparents. This intimidation of children is central to Namahage and similar practices throughout Japan, and has been interpreted as a form of discipline, a ritualized exhortation to be a productive and responsible member of the community, and also as a way of annually reinforcing the protective bond between children and parents. Generally, as in the version I observed in Yumoto, the Namahage focus only on children; historically, however, they have also been known to chase wives (and occasionally husbands) newly married into the family--that is, they target anybody new to the household or the hamlet (see Ine 1985:56; and Yamamoto 1978:121-4).



After several minutes, the Namahage calm down and kneel in front of a tray prepared with sake and food, including hata hata, a local fish caught only in the winter. The parents and grandparents engage in humorous banter with the visitors, joking about, for example, their table manners and the flavor of the hata hata. Often, the Namahage will end by wishing the household good fortune and promising to return again the following year. Then, with a few parting roars, they leave for the next house. It is worth noting that the job of a Namahage can be rather strenuous, requiring the demon-figures not only to roar and chase children, but also to make boisterous repartee with the adults and drink a cup of sake at up to twenty different households.

In her 1978 ethnography, anthropologist Yoshiko Yamamoto explained the ritual as a rite of passage, whereby children are initiated into village and family life through a hazing process provided by the terrifying visitors (1978:131-3). This observation still seems valid (as a number of participants I spoke with confirmed); based on my own observations and interviews, I would also add that the young men playing the role of Namahage experience an initiation rite themselves through which they gain greater responsibility within the community. In the guise of demons, they transgress their normal social position, talk back to their elders without rebuke, and not only drink alcohol (sometimes underage) but have sake and beer respectfully served to them. As with most experiences of communitas or carnivelesque transgression, however, the completion of the rite brings with it a return to established order. While the young men performing the Namahage role, especially those participating for the first time, may enter the new year with a slightly different status, the ritual works to perpetuate existing social orders. Indeed, by disciplining the children in each household, the young men in the guise of Namahage serve as agents of the very structure they are temporarily subverting. (8)

A number of local legends account for the origin of the Namahage tradition. The most commonly recounted narrative explains that the Namahage are originally demons (oni) brought as laborers from China. Other theories locate the Namahage's origin in legends of foreign sailors--variously Chinese, Spanish, Russian, or British--shipwrecked on the coast of Akita. Another legend identifies the original Namahage as practitioners of esoteric Buddhism living in the mountains of Oga; overcome by the strictness of their practices, they came rampaging through the village costumed as demons. (9) Significantly, all these legends portray the "original" Namahage as outsiders who transgress the inner communal space of the village; it is, perhaps, no coincidence that this opposition between outsider and insider has been reflected in scholarly discourse of the Namahage. Ultimately, however, it is the fluid dynamic between these two poles, rather than the opposition, that provides a helpful way to re-inscribe the Namahage's contemporary significance.

Visiting Deities

The serious study of the Namahage began with Japanese scholars venturing from the center (the metropole/the academy) to the periphery (in this case, a peninsula, literally the edge of the mainland) in a quest to understand their own country. The oldest extant document describing Namahage dates from 1811, when scholar and poet Sugae Masumi (1754-1829) traveled through northern Japan, carefully recording his sojourn to the margins of the nation--including a visit to Oga:

Deep in the night, lanterns are lit and everybody gathers around the hearth; suddenly, the Namahage come in. With high-horned masks painted red, and disheveled hair of black-dyed grass, they wear [a straw coat called] a kera and carry a box. What is inside, I do not know, but it makes a dry, rattling sound. In their hands they carry small knives, and they burst in abruptly yelling, "Waa!" So surprised they cannot cry out, the children say, "It's the Namahage" and they cling to people and hide behind things. (Sugae 1968:123-4) (10) (See fig. 4.)


During the early twentieth century, Sugae's description was "discovered" by Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), the putative founder of the field of minzokugaku (Japanese folkloristics or native ethnology). (11) As a lively tradition performed far from the beaten path, Namahage became implicated in a cultural opposition between center and periphery in which the rural hinterlands came to signify a pure, untrammeled way of life. Exotic because of its difference from the modern city, a remote region such as Oga was at the same time tinged with nostalgic familiarity because of its location, during a period of colonial expansion, within the boundaries of "Japan." (12)

Yanagita's own scholarship links Namahage to similar customs throughout the Japanese archipelago and especially the southern Ryukyu Islands--a connection, he argues, that provides evidence of the spread of "Japanese" culture from the south to the north. Because of the relative underdevelopment and isolation of Northeastern Japan, Yanagita claims, the custom has survived in a fairly unadulterated form while similar traditions have gradually died out elsewhere. "Especially for the traveler," he says, "[Oga] is a nostalgic (natsukashii) country of long ago" (Yanagita 1970:127). To Yanagita and his students, a custom such as the Namahage provided a living connection to an entire unwritten history that, presumably, modernity was in the process of obscuring. If the "quest for authenticity" as Regina Bendix suggests, "is oriented toward the recovery of an essence whose loss has been realized only through modernity, and whose recovery is feasible only through methods and sentiments created in modernity" (1997:8), then the development of minzokugaku during the early twentieth century reflects an awareness of the past as a source of national (and nationalist) inspiration for the present. (13)

Yanagita characterized the Namahage as a mysterious visitor arriving at the transition between the old year and the new. This interpretation was adopted by Yanagita's student and sometimes rival, Orikuchi Shinobu (1887-1953), who called the Namahage a raihojin or "visiting deity," an idea he further developed into his now famous concept of marebito. Orikuchi did not invent the marebito from scratch, but through his work it came to signify the rare visitor, with elements both sacred and profane:

Going back as far as possible with regard to the meaning of the word mare, we can say that it indicates the most infrequent of appearances or visitations. Also, as for the word hito [from which is derived the bito of marebito], before it became fixed as referring to human beings, it also seems to have had the meaning of "deity" [kami] or "heir" [keishosha].... We can easily conjecture that [hito] could be used to indicate a sacred being who was also a human being. (Orikuchi 1995c, Vol. 1:12-3) (14)

Embedded in the concept, therefore, is a complex set of associations: the infrequent visitor, the revered guest ("marebito" is related to marodo, an archaic term for "guest"), a fusing of the sacred and the human. The marebito is an outsider with magical and transformative powers, a mystical Other granted temporary admission into the community.

Orikuchi explains elsewhere that marebito originally

seems to have referred to a deity (kami) ... who came for attendance at a given time. It was a deity the villagers believed would come from the sky, or from across the sea, to their particular village, effecting a certain amount of good fortune such as wealth, longevity, and the like. But this deity was not restricted to the religious imagination. In fact, the villagers of ancient times could hear it knocking on the doors of their houses when this marebito came to visit (Orikuchi 1995b, Vol. 2:41).

To be sure, Orikuchi never "strictly defines" (Komatsu 2001:382) his own concept, and it has been rightly criticized for its overly abstract and ahistorical nature. (15) But it has also proved remarkably resilient, with one consistent element being the characterization of the marebito as an outsider welcomed temporarily into the community. As such, the abstract notion of the marebito dovetails neatly with the concrete tradition of Namahage, both in terms of the legends associated with it, as well as its performance of transgression and otherness within the ritual context. (16)

Present-Tense Namahage

Orikuchi and Yanagita had distinct opinions about the meaning of "visiting deity" traditions; questions about the origins of the marebito fueled a lively debate. (17) Ultimately, however, both scholars were working similarly to chart an ancient Japanese cosmology. Namahage and like traditions were features on a map of the present from which they strove to re-imagine the cultural landscape of the past. Namahage was a survival, a trace of a lost, authentic topography of belief. While folklorists in Japan have generally moved on from this position, popular discourse to this day persists in characterizing Namahage as a venerable tradition harkening back to purer, more innocent times, a characterization that holds particular sway as an inspiration for tourism. (18)

With this in mind then, I would like to turn now to a consideration of the Namahage as a contemporary tradition with meaning in the present tense. As Japan rebuilt itself into an industrial superpower after the end of World War II, agricultural and fishing communities such as Oga declined economically and suffered devastating depopulation. One response to these losses was for villages, often with federal assistance, to develop their local cultural resources into tourist attractions. (19) In the case of the Oga Peninsula, local residents have worked effectively and continuously to shape Namahage--as ritual, festival, image, idea--in response to its popularity with both ethnographers and tourists. (20) They have retraced and overwritten the "text" of the Namahage so that, in a sense, each performance works as a kind of palimpsest (see Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998:156), sometimes following existing contours and sometimes diverging from them.

One way Namahage functions in contemporary Oga is as a powerful source of identity projected to visitors. The demon figure itself has become an ever present icon: there are Namahage hot spring baths, campgrounds, bookshops, and life-sized Namahage figures stationed outside shops. You can buy all sorts of Namahage good luck charms, masks, coffee mugs, telephone cards, bobble-heads, stuffed toys, T-shirts, bean cakes, towels, and even "Namahage Salt" There is an Akita Prefecture version of Monopoly with images of the Namahage splashed across the game board, and you can even find Namahage versions of Hello Kitty items, featuring the famous, cutesified white cat dressed in traditional Namahage demon wear. And, in addition to the ubiquitous two-dimensional image of a threatening Namahage found throughout Oga, now two 15-meter tall plastic statues of the demon figure, posed as if ready for attack, stand along the major road leading to the Peninsula (figs. 5 and 6).

Furthermore, Namahage has been designated as a regional and national folk asset. In 1978 the federal government officially recognized the tradition as an "important intangible folk cultural property" (Juyd mukei minzoku bunkazai); in 1996 a local research group based at the Shinzan Shrine opened a museum called the Oga Shinzan densho kan (Oga Shinzan Tradition Hall). From April through November a re-enactment of the New Year's Eve ritual is performed for visitors every half hour, so that "anybody can have the experience" (Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo 2004:5; see also Kamata 2007; Taira 2008b) (fig. 7). In 1999, Oga City opened its own museum, the Namahage-kan, adjacent to the Shinzan site: visitors can view a huge collection of masks, watch film clips, and access a database with information on different local versions. This sort of commodification and indexing (Rojek 1997), of course, is not unusual when dealing with traditional culture in Japan or anywhere else. (21) The heritage tourist attraction almost always resides at the heart of a paradox, in which exploitation and preservation (and exploitation for the sake of preservation) go hand in hand. The iconicization of the Namahage--with its wild face, uplifted knife, and straw coat--serves not only to sell the region to outsiders, but is also imbricated within the identity politics of the region, through which the perceived (and projected) "backwardness" of Oga is converted from a liability into an asset. (22) Such commodification is one method by which a tradition--or aspects of a tradition--can thrive within changing socio-cultural circumstances. (23)



The Tourist Gaze

In this way, the Namahage is extracted from the New Year's Eve observance and becomes a brand, a label that signifies Oga and, with it, an authentically rural Japanese space. But as the Namahage figure is iconicized, what becomes of the New Year's Eve ritual itself? Does it become detached from the souvenirs for sale to remain a private ritual protected from the tourist gaze and therefore somehow more "real"? Or will it also attract visitors? More than 30 years ago, Yamamoto concluded:

The Namahage festival as a commercial attraction seems to be unreliable and unpromising. The celebration lacks significance for people from the outside. Most of the dialogue is ad-libbed and meaningful only to the participants.... The Namahage observance is basically a drama for insiders only; it is a series of intimate scenes in which actors and audience participate. It is not a production that easily lends itself to the entertainment of a passive audience of strangers. The hamlet and the household, where the people know one another and the incidents of day-to-day life are common knowledge, provide the only effective environment in which the Namahage observance can operate with any success. (Yamamoto 1978:126)

Despite these commonsensical observations, however, the Namahage's success as a "commercial attraction" has been remarkable. This "drama for insiders" has been molded into an event conducive to outside observation and has become a major tourist attraction.


Three Versions

In considering the Namahage as a touristic event, I want to avoid the value-laden rhetoric of object-authenticity that has historically informed folkloristics in Japan since its disciplinary inception. I do not, however, dismiss categorically the notion of authenticity--indeed, as I hope to show, thinking about authenticity leads to important insights regarding the consumption as well as the production of tradition. My point is simply that the rhetoric of authenticity derives from, as Edward Bruner and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett put it, a "preoccupation with the relationship of what is given to something that is posited as prior" (Bruner and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1994:459). In Japan this preoccupation and the associated quest for origins has sometimes led to an assessment of living, changing forms of cultural expression as somehow superficial. This unequal dichotomy between presumed original and presumed copy so often causes the very forms of cultural production that are most vital--those that respond with vigor and subtlety to changing market forces, identity politics, and technological innovation--to be overlooked by scholars. (24) It is much more productive to consider Namahage as a constantly changing process, or, as anthropologist Scott Schnell says about ritual in general, "an ongoing performative discourse whose contents are continually amended, reinterpreted, or transformed according to the needs of its practitioners--needs that clearly change over time in response to changing sociopolitical and economic conditions" (Schnell 1999:4). (25)

While such conditions, and concomitant changes within Namahage, can be traced over time, they can also, more strikingly, be found in versions performed more or less simultaneously. That is, mutation and variation emerge not only diachronically but also synchronically, within a network of related patterns. Each one of these synchronic versions can be thought of in terms of an economic system, by which I simply mean a dynamic cycle of production and consumption. Such an optic helps us consider how local resources--in this case, the cultural capital of a tradition--are managed by a community; it also provides a way of recognizing differences between performances without privileging one version over another. (26)

In the Namahage as performed on New Year's Eve, we can see three different orientations--that is, degrees by which the performance is oriented inwardly (toward community residents) or outwardly (toward tourists). Just as a given commodity may be circulated within a confined market, so too the economy of the Namahage can be characterized as either closed or open. "Members of particular groups or social categories," Richard Bauman long ago suggested, "may exchange folklore with each other, on the basis of shared identity, or with others, on the basis of differential identity" (Bauman 1971:38). In its coexisting versions, Namahage is no longer the property of a single folk group; rather, it provides a dynamic means of communication, of commerce, between different groups. In Yumoto each of the three versions I observed had a different orientation and each functioned as a different--though related--mode of communication between distinct social identities.

One version might be characterized as an esoteric performance within a closed economic structure. This inward-oriented ritual takes place within the private household of a given family and consists of an exchange--of fear and excitement, of food, drink, and conversation--between the Namahage and the residents. This is the version I describe above and which Sugae, Yanagita, Orikuchi, Yamamoto, and other scholars generally reference. Performed by community members for community members, it is what Yamamoto might consider an insiders' ceremony. (27) At the heart of this closed system is the affective commodity of fear, produced by the Namahage upon entering the household. Although there is recognizable consistency between the performance as described by Sugae and the way it is currently practiced, there are also a number of practical modern changes. In Yumoto, for instance, the Namahage do not always walk through the snow from house to house, but ride in a small truck. And the masks, though still hand-carved and painted, are ingeniously fashioned around baseball catcher's masks for greater comfort and ease of use.

In contrast to this inwardly oriented performance, the second version demonstrates a quasi-open economy. Before beginning their rounds of the private households, the Namahage stop at the house of the Yumoto district head (chiku kaicho). In the year I attended, along with the head's own family members, approximately 15 Japanese tourists from local hotels sat off to the side of the large living room. On the tatami (floor matting) in the middle of the room, there were four trays of food and drink; the son of the district head, a boy of about ten, waited calmly, chatting with the audience. Finally the Namahage entered, roaring and stamping, chasing the boy around the room and then settling down to banter with his parents.

Although this all takes place within the confines of a household, outsiders are in on the event; "private" ritual is performed as (semi-) "public" spectacle. In the closed economy version above, the symbolic capital at the heart of the ritual is the fear engendered in the children; in this semi-open economy, the boy himself acts for the crowd, employing the representation of fear to entertain the visitors. I am not suggesting that the lack of real fear makes this version less "authentic" than the other; it simply has a different function, in which the affect produced is the voyeuristic excitement experienced by the audience.

The third version, which is oriented explicitly toward visitors from outside, occurs when the Namahage visit local hotels. The hotel owners have prepared sake and fish just as in the households, and they formally serve these items to the Namahage. But this time, when the Namahage enter into the hotel lobby, they not only roar at the hotel owners, but they also proceed to chase and threaten the assembled guests. By replicating the private household version in the public space of the hotel--the temporary household of people from outside the community--the ritual goes one step beyond the performance at the district head's residence. It is the Namahage who now transgress the space of the outsiders. Indeed, this version represents a rather profound change of orientation, through which the observing tourists become protagonists in the replication of the household performance. The closed system of the community economy has been opened to external participation, and the fear experienced by the children is paralleled by the merriment experienced by the tourists as the Namahage chase them around the lobby of their own hotel.

Though their functions are different, all three versions outlined above are, of course, equally part of the folkloric phenomenon of Namahage in present-day Oga. And just as the use of a truck to carry the Namahage is easily incorporated into the tradition, so the outward-oriented versions become fully integrated into the evening's happenings in Yumoto. One publication simply explains that on New Year's Eve, the Namahage begin their rounds with the district head's home and end with the hotels (Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo 2004:31). (28)

Part II: The Uninvited Guest

I have already mentioned Orikuchi Shinobu's problematic but compelling notion of the marebito. Now, I would like to draw on a related set of ideas developed by Orikuchi that, when employed in a fresh way, provide a vocabulary to help articulate the interaction of outside and inside, and illuminate the explicit role of the visitor in local cultural expression. Through applying these abstract notions to the concrete example of Namahage, I hope to shed some light on the lively dynamic between producers and consumers of heritage, and on contemporary questions of tourism and authenticity.

Orikuchi was interested in tracing the origins and development (hassei) of the performing arts (geino). Simply put, he suggested that a ritual or rite (saishi), enacted within a religious context to pacify spirits, was on a continuum with a performance event enacted wholly for the entertainment of other people. As Hashimoto Hiroyuki explains, in Orikuchi's formulation, ritual is one "phase" of a process through which performing arts come into being (1994:11-3), and the resulting "'folk performing arts' (minzoku geino) exist in varied and mixed forms, some with a stronger ritualistic character, some with a stronger performative character" (Hashimoto 1995:60). (29) In the case of Namahage, the three versions outlined above can be located at different points along such a continuum. (I would stress again, however, that they should be understood not as the denigration of an original form, but simply in terms of recontextualization through varying degrees of outward orientation.)

If the Namahage in the private household version aligns with Orikuchi's notion of ritual, then the version enacted in the district head's household exemplifies the process by which ritual slips into performance. The young men act the role of Namahage just as in the private household version, but this time the family also participates in the mimesis: the child performs the role of himself expressing fear while his parents play the role of parents. The scene is a (re)presentation of the ritual as it would be enacted with no audience present. But that is the crucial distinction: there is an audience. Outsiders are watching, and the participants are acting to be seen. For Orikuchi this "condition" of "seeing/being seen" is necessary for the performing arts to occur (Hashimoto 1994:14-6; also Hashimoto 2004). The outside observers (and the consciousness of their observation on the part of the performers) create the performance event.

Though not as widely known as the marebito mentioned earlier, another term invoked by Orikuchi, the manekarezaru-kyaku, literally the "uninvited guest," helps articulate the dynamics of ritual and performance found here:

[T]here are visitors who are not treated (taigu) as guests (kyaku). I label these the "uninvited guests" (manekarezaru-kyaku); it is inevitable that when there is a festival (matsuri), there will be those who are envious and come to watch. That is, because only particular deities are invited, other lower level deities will be envious and come to peek in at the festival banquet. (Orikuchi 1995d, Vol. 21:31)

In Orikuchi's informal hierarchy of deific visitors, uninvited guests are distinctly inferior to marebito; they are, as it were, nosey neighbors or rubbernecking passersby. (30)

Recognizing the inevitability of intrusion by such "lower level deities," however, community members eventually create a forum through which uninvited guests are received. Thus, the uninvited guest is an essential catalyst for the advent of performance: "When the 'seeing/being seen' relationship (miru/mirareru kankei) is established, then regardless of the time or place, the performing arts are created. However, without the visitation of the 'uninvited guest,' the 'seeing/being seen' relationship itself will not be established" (Hashimoto 1994:15). For Orikuchi, the performing arts develop through a process by which the economy of ritual is opened up to, and altered by, the gaze of outside visitors. This conception, of course, dovetails with contemporary understandings of performance as "rest[ing] on an assumption of responsibility to an audience for a display of communicative virtuosity, highlighting the way in which the act of discursive production is accomplished, above and beyond the additional multiple functions the communicative act may serve" (Bauman 2004:9).

With this in mind, the concept of the uninvited guest further sheds light on contemporary tourism phenomena--especially heritage tourism in which outsiders travel to certain sites to observe (and experience) "traditional" culture. (31) By focusing on the importance of the uninvited guests' desire to see, as well as the ritual participants' awareness of being seen, Orikuchi provides a framework for inserting tourism into the discourse on ritual and performance:

We might say that the performing arts that emerged from the banquet were not intended to be shown to anybody. But when it came to be the objective [of some people] to see [these events], the position of the viewer came to be considered. I think it is correct to say that the position of the uninvited guest gradually gave birth to sightseeing (kenbutsu). (Orikuchi 1995d, Vol. 21:33)

Private ritual becomes public performance (and tourist attraction) when the desire of the uninvited guest to watch is acknowledged by the participants. Such "cultural self-consciousness" (Picard 1995:61) clearly influences the version of the Namahage performed in the village district head's home. Likewise, the hotel version, in which both the Namahage and the hotel employees perform for the visitors, also fits into Orikuchi's notion of performing arts. At the same time, however, because the Namahage also chase around the hotel guests, this version takes the process one step further, suggesting a circling back to the ritualistic end of the spectrum. To be sure, the guests are still "outsiders" (e.g., they are staying in a hotel), but for this brief event, they are both spectators as well as participants.

In short, the different New Year's Eve versions of Namahage in Yumoto help us envision Orikuchi's linking of "ritual" and "performing arts"; his notion of the uninvited guest articulates the complex processes that connect the two and similarly helps us imagine the role of the tourist within this continuum. Inevitably, it seems, visitors will come, so community members modify the ritual to accommodate their presence. The event is sculpted by the tourist gaze and ultimately also by the local residents' recognition of the visitors' desire to be more than just spectators. (32)

Inviting the "Uninvited Guest"

The versions above all creatively accommodate the incursion of uninvited guests, insistent onlookers excited by the possibility of glimpsing, or joining in, another's ritual. But what happens when such uninvited guests are recognized for their profit potential and invited in their own right? This is the moment when the intrusive stranger, the looker-on, becomes the central focus of the ritual event, not simply a determined spectator or tolerated participant. In a sense, the uninvited guest is transformed into the marebito, the treasured visitor from another world. To fete the uninvited guest, a related but distinct event is created, one that takes place in a separate place and at a separate time, functioning explicitly to entertain these visiting strangers. In Oga this event is the Namahage Sedo Matsuri (Namahage Sedo Festival). Chronologically and geographically distinct from the three versions above, it takes place every year on the second weekend of February at the Shinzan Shrine and entails the cooperation of different hamlets throughout Oga. The Namahage Sedo Matsuri represents an assemblage of rituals/performances into a "multifocus, multisensory" (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998:57) event, most accurately categorized by the word "festival" a common translation of matsuri. Within our economy metaphor, such a festival might be thought of as a public marketplace open to all customers. (33)

The Namahage Sedo Matsuri was created in 1964 when community leaders combined the Namahage motif with elements of an existing shrine festival (called Sedo Matsuri), celebrated in early January, to produce a new event "for the purpose of winter season tourism" (Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo 2004:18). As with much cultural tourism, by acknowledging the uninvited guest, "the native populations," as Picard puts it, "are not passive objects of the tourist gaze, but active subjects who construct representations of their culture to attract tourists" (Picard 1995:46). Significantly, the Namahage Sedo Matsuri does not occur on New Year's Eve--it is not an event into which uninvited guests might intrude, but one developed specifically to invite them during the notoriously snowy depths of midwinter, a season in which they otherwise would not come. And come they do, amply and eagerly: in the year 2000, for example, there were approximately one thousand participants each night (for three nights), including visitors from all over Japan and even a group of American exchange students studying in Akita City. (34) The overall numbers were similar ten years later in 2010, though this time there seemed to be more foreign visitors, including several American English language teachers from prefectural schools and a Chinese tour group. In my most recent visits in 2012 and 2013, numbers remained steady, with primarily Japanese domestic tourists and a small smattering of foreigners.

The highly orchestrated festival features numerous performance events, continuously narrated over loudspeakers, all of which pertain to the Namahage theme. (35) In the center of the shrine grounds, a huge bonfire (called a sedo) lights up the snowy night sky. Small booths along the periphery sell sake, beer, and food. There is an opening ceremony during which the young men acting the role of the Namahage are blessed by the priest of Shinzan Shrine and, donning their masks, are transformed publicly into deity-demon figures (fig. 8). One of the main attractions of the festival takes place in the kagura-den, a large stage at one end of the grounds set up to replicate the living room of a household: with running commentary and microphones, the household version of the ritual is enacted for the assembled spectators. In this reframing and recontextualization for the stage, the interaction between the "household members" and the Namahage is lengthened slightly and the acting is more exaggerated.

Another event is the Namahage Daiko, introduced as a "new folk performance" (atarashii minzoku geino). This is a long and energetic taiko-drumming concert with the performers, dressed in straw kende raincoats and large Namahage masks, punctuating their rhythms by roaring at the crowd. (36) The drum performance is followed by the Namahage Odori (dance), consisting of a pair of Namahage dancing in front of the raging bonfire, pausing at opportune moments as tourists snap photographs (figs. 9 and 10).

Eventually, the "climax" of the festival is announced, and the spectators clamor into position, this time facing toward a mountain rising up behind the shrine. At the top of a ridge, silhouetted against the night sky, fifteen Namahage stand holding fiery torches--another perfect photo opportunity (fig. 11). They stamp their way along the ridge and run down the slope, finally bursting onto the snowy shrine grounds, where they proceed to roar and threaten members of the audience. The tourists, laughing and shrieking, appear to enjoy themselves immensely. All the while, the distinctive Namahage roaring is blasted over the loudspeakers.

Scott Schnell notes that a "commonly mentioned feature" of Japanese festivals "is that the deity, after being summoned into the society of humans, is treated in the manner of an honored guest. This includes the offering of food and drink as well as lively entertainment" (1999:14). It is no coincidence then that after descending theatrically from the mountains to chase around the tourists, the Namahage proceed to distribute mochi rice cakes (toasted over the sedo bonfire) to the visitors. In the New Year's Eve versions of the ritual, food and drink are distributed to the Namahage--they are the marebito, the special guests who bring good fortune for the year. In the Namahage Sedo Matsuri, the relationship is reversed: now it is the Namahage who distribute mochi to the guests who, by staying in local hotels and visiting local shops and restaurants, bring a modicum of fortune to this remote area in the dead of winter.





Although the economy of the Namahage Sedo Matsuri is open, as in any marketplace there is still a distinction between consumer and producer. Clearly, for example, the commentary running throughout the festival works to welcome visitors by making them privy to "correct" symbolic meanings. But such commentary is double-edged: while indoctrinating tourists into the goings-on of the festival, it simultaneously reinforces a barrier between the insiders (who already know) and the outsiders (who have to be instructed). The explanations are controlled and ultimately serve to delimit meaning to the received interpretation: the gaze of the tourist is rigidly guided. The festival is produced (in all senses of the word) for consumption by visitors from the outside.

For their part, the visitors consume with gusto, performing their own role as spectators, particularly through "photographic visualization" (Bruner 1995:235). Indeed many tourists bring sophisticated cameras and video equipment, the Namahage themselves readily pose for pictures, and in 2012 a special viewing stand was constructed so that photographers and other spectators could get an unobstructed view: to recall Orikuchi's words: "the position of the viewer came to be considered." This visual consumption allows the visitor to make permanent the glimpse into the festival banquet, "thereby graphically transforming [it]," as Fredric Jameson says, "into its own material image" (1979:131). The camera frames and decontextualizes the Namahage in the viewfinder, artifactualizing the experience into a possession (souvenir) so that the Namahage can enter households far from the boundaries of Oga. This process of graphic conversion completes a circle in which a private ritual (the household version on New Year's Eve) becomes a public performance (Namahage Sedo Matsuri) that outsiders, through photographic appropriation, can bring back into their own private households. (37)

I hope my very abbreviated description here provides some sense of the size and theatricality of the festival. All the rituals that make up the event seem explicitly designed with spectators--the invited uninvited guests--in mind. In 2010, one festival organizer put it explicitly when he explained to me that the purpose of the Matsuri was "to show Namahage to tourists" (kanko-kyaku ni miseru tame). As an economic model, then, the Namahage Sedo Matsuri is outwardly oriented, not just accommodating investments from beyond the boundaries of the community but structured around them. When discussing Namahage, folklorists and anthropologists (both Japanese and foreign) have generally tended to overlook this festival. But despite the fact that it is a newer iteration of older cultural resources and a recognizably "invented tradition" it is in fact this five decade-old event that is most vigorously advertised by the Akita Prefectural tourist board and that most visitors come to experience. (38)

Embodiment and Subjective Authenticity

But the question remains as to what, exactly, the visitors are experiencing. In 1985 Maxine Feifer coined the term "post-tourist" to refer to contemporary tourists who are not only aware of their own position as consumers of tourist commodities, but who, as Urry puts it, "almost delight in the inauthenticity of the normal tourist experience" (2002:12). We are thrust back, inevitably, into the paradoxical arena of authenticity discourse: the inauthentic tourist experience is, it turns out, the very definition of the authentic post-tourist experience. Orikuchi's notion of the uninvited guest helps us contend with just this sort of paradox. The post-tourist, Feifer explains, "cannot evade his condition of outsider" (1985:271); this condition, of course, is exactly that of the uninvited guest peeking in at the festival.

The notion of the post-tourist is compelling because it challenges the construction of tourist as na'ive consumer of tradition. A similar consciousness is also found on the side of producers of tradition: the local community is clearly aware that the event can (or must) be modified for consumption by outside visitors. One member of the Oga tourist board explained to me that when tourists started coming to see Namahage, the community realized that, ironically, the only way to preserve the tradition would be to make it accessible to outsiders. In the old days, he noted, Oga was "closed" (heisateki) to outsiders, and therefore, residents performed the Namahage only for their own "satisfaction" (manzoku). After tourists began to come, however, residents had to change their "spirit" (seishin) to accommodate the visitors. (39) With the Namahage, as with any economic exchange, both consumers and producers have subjectivity--and the exchange between the two shapes the commodity. Moreover, as Ogano Minoru, a photographer who has been visiting Oga for 30 years, suggested to me, it is the very existence of the Namahage Sedo Matsuri itself that allows the New Year's Eve ritual to persist. Not only does the Matsuri relieve touristic pressure from the events of New Year's Eve, so that an inward-oriented version can be performed in a relatively undisturbed fashion, but it also serves to energize interest in Namahage more generally, reminding Oga residents of its significance. The public festival in February makes the comparatively private rituals of New Year's Eve all the more special, and all the more worth continuing. (40)

In our current age of digital reproduction, images of the Namahage are not only readily available in books and museums, but can be channeled into the home through television and the Internet. A figure remarkably similar to the Namahage even makes a cameo appearance in Miyazaki Hayao's blockbuster anime, Spirited Away (2001). (41) Moreover, at any given time, there are numerous scenes from both the Namahage Sedo Matsuri as well as the enactment at the Oga Shinzan Tradition Hall posted on YouTube. That is, the Namahage is everywhere and nowhere, so easily accessible as to be completely out of reach--like the iconic image with knife upraised, at once inviting and unapproachable. This proliferation, with its endless replication and ease of access, suggests a loss of the auratic object. And if the Namahage ritual in the private household serves a religious or magical function, what Walter Benjamin would call "cult value" the Namahage Sedo Matsuri commodifies this ritual for its "exhibition value" (Benjamin 1969:223-6).

But something more is going on here. Bruner and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett suggest that some tourist sites generate an effect of "tourist realism," in which real experience is replicated, though all parties are very much aware of the artifice involved. Tourist realism, they explain, "places a premium on experience--visceral, kinesthetic, haptic, intimate" (1994:449). This emphasis corresponds with the uninvited guests' Namahage encounter: from the version in the hotel to the Namahage Sedo Matsuri, visitors not only see the Namahage, but experience the thrill of being chased. While there are several words in Japanese that translate as "experience," perhaps it is no coincidence that when speaking of Namahage, residents as well as tourists commonly invoke the word taiken, a compound that includes the kanji character for "body" and tends to emphasize the corporeal, subjective aspects of the undertaking more than the intellectual or objective. (42) Regardless of what the tourist knows or thinks of the "traditional" Namahage, no matter how much he or she nurtures an ironic post-touristic appreciation for the staged event, there is no doubt that during the excitement of the festival, the tactile, animal presence of a roaring, knife-wielding demon, straw flying in every direction, inspires a real experience: the body of the Namahage is living--and it interacts with the body of the tourist.

I have suggested that the most noticeable means by which tourists apprehend the experience of the Namahage is vision, and in particular, the taking of photographs. Perhaps the key word here, however, is "noticeable." If the gaze structures touristic encounters (Urry 2002), then perhaps vision also structures the ethnographer's depiction of tourists in their natural setting; my own descriptions above are inevitably visual. Visual impressions are, perhaps, simply the easiest to extract from the broader experiential context. For tourist as well as ethnographer, visual consumption is the most effectively commodified (e.g., souvenirs, postcards, etc.) and, accordingly, often becomes the normative mode of documenting and remembering. Whether verbal or photographic, the visual description of the sight/site is the most readily isolated signifier of the multi-sensory experience. Ultimately, however, the privileging of the visual does a disservice to understanding the "sensual onslaught" (Edensor 2006:38) of the embodied tourism encounter. Film (or pixels) cannot capture the chilled fingers and numbed cheeks, the crunch of the snow, the violent crackling of the bonfire, the smell of burning wood, the sweet warm thrill of sake in the cold February darkness.

Particularly when the Namahage descend into the crowd with torches ablaze, the experience is both physical and affective--the heart quickens, the face reddens, emotions are engaged. In this moment, awareness that the Namahage is putting on a show for consumption is irrelevant. Regardless of what the tourists, or post-tourists, may think of the Namahage's "authenticity" they feel its physical presence. For the uninvited guest transformed into the marebito, Benjamin's "cult value" certainly must arise from the "sensory riot" (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998:58) of the festival moment. (43) Perhaps it is a desire to experience this affect, undiluted by intellectualization or ironic distance (or spatial of virtual distance), that lures the uninvited guest to Oga in the winter. No matter how consciously the performance is staged, and no matter how conscious the visitors are of this staginess, when the Namahage descend from the snowy hills, the excitement in the air is real, tangible, pleasurable, and different from the everyday world to which the visitors will soon return. The Namahage facilitates a temporary departure from the structure of everyday life, and a rare chance for a moving experience.

And this once more brings us back to what Regina Bendix calls the "fragmented" and "multivocal" notion of authenticity (1997:15-6). To be sure, in large part the problem is one of language. If the notion of authenticity itself is a product of modernity and its anxieties, then it is not surprising that the visitors who cheer for the Namahage Daiko drummers and click photos of the Namahage dancers seem unconcerned that these performances are not part of an "original" Namahage tradition. The very rhetoric of authenticity is, as it were, a survival from the mode of mourning spurred by modernity's discovery of tradition (and its loss). "The paradox, the dilemma of authenticity," Jonathan Culler famously noted, "is that to be experienced as authentic it must be marked as authentic, but when it is marked as authentic it is mediated, a sign of itself and hence not authentic in the sense of unspoiled" (1981:137). This paradox, however, only obtains when the tourist seeks or expects or desires something "unspoiled" The authenticity/inauthenticity question is a trap of language--a trap that the visitor unconcerned with finding modernity's other can evade. For such a visitor, authenticity is never "staged" because there is nothing that is not already spoiled (or enhanced), no real thing at the beginning of the procession of simulacra.

I am, of course, talking theoretically here: it goes without saying that the motivations and expectations of tourists are always varied and never simple. (44) Among the visitors to the Namahage Sedo Matsuri with whom I spoke in 2000 was a man in his late sixties, an amateur photographer who had been coming to take photographs of the festival for 10 years; for him, the visual aspects of the event (and the Oga region in general) were the most compelling. Two middle-aged men from Tokyo came to participate in a hobby known as sensha-fuda, in which they paste slips of Japanese paper imprinted with their names or "pen-names" (yago) onto temple structures; these men had timed their visit so that they might also experience the festival. (45) Several young women traveling together explained that the festival was a chance to experience something different, to encounter, as one of them put it, the "real thing" (hon-mono), in the rural hinterlands.

In 2010, I met a group of four thirty-something friends from Tochigi Prefecture; they had come to Oga as aficionados of hot spring baths (onsen) and were happy that their visit coincided with the Matsuri. Similarly, an older couple from Tokyo had wanted to get away from the city to visit a hot spring in combination with the experience of the festival. Afterward, they told me it had been "interesting" because they had come such a long way and, though they had seen Namahage on television before, they had never seen it "close up." In the crowd in 2010 and 2012, the majority of visitors were probably between the ages of 20 and 40, but there were also numerous older people and many young families with children (depending on the particular night during the three-day event). Some travelled by train, others by private car, and still others had come in tour buses that were making rounds of "major winter festivals" This is all to note that it would be fruitless to try to pinpoint a "typical" tourist at an event as large as this one. Regardless, therefore, of how scholars work to define or delineate the notion of authenticity, for each tourist it must have many registers, intricately knotted. (46)

One strand of this knot emerges simply from having traveled a long distance, often through inclement winter weather, to a location far from home. Tourists may be aware of the artifice and invention involved in the festival itself--the blasting of loudspeakers gives it away immediately!--but there is a sense of realthingness simply because they are there, far from home, standing in the snow, and slipping on the icy ground. During and after the festival, I spoke with visitors who were completely unperturbed by the explicit showiness of the event. Rather, they exclaimed how much fun they were having and how "interesting" (omoshiroi) and "scary" (kowai) the Namahage were. Here in Oga they had encountered something distinct from their everyday lives, participating in, as Tim Edensor puts it, "a quest for sensory 'otherness' outside an apparent matrix of spatial predictability" (Edensor 2006:24). Their experiences were not safe and virtual but sensual and embodied and affective. When they boarded the bus back to the hotel, they were cold, tired, wet, perhaps a little drunk, and somehow satisfied.

By extracting the notion of authenticity from its fraught relationship with tradition and exploring instead its affiliation with embodiment and affect, we return to one of its earlier associations. Among eighteenth-century European intellectuals, notions of authenticity developed out of a desire to describe "that which was felt, which touched, moved, and stirred one sensually rather than rationally" (Bendix 1997:30). In other words, authenticity was affiliated with the senses, with the body and with emotions unsullied by reason. The concept is philosophically and historically related to the notion of sincerity, which in turn allows us to understand the way in which, as John P. Taylor puts it, "the moment of interaction may become the site in which value is generated" (Taylor 2001:9; see also Trilling 1972). In such a moment, subject/object duality disappears (if even for just an instant) and an unreflexive, undistanced relationship occurs between self and other, creating "a simultaneous interpellation and dissolution of the tourist as subject" (Cary 2004:69). Authenticity is not an aura emanating from a particular object, but rather a mode of reception existing within the observing-experiencing-feeling subject.

Relieved of its modernist binaries, tourism is not the passive observation of somebody else's festival by a horde of uninvited guests; it is instead an active practice by which producers and consumers interact with each other and create an event. The authenticity of the tourist "object" is irrelevant: the locus of authenticity--if the word still applies--is within the tourists themselves, who experience a kind of subjective authenticity. (47) And through this subjective authenticity, the tourist is not an uninvited guest or a lower level deity, but the star of his or her own narrative, the welcomed visitor at the heart of the festival (fig. 12).


Coda: Welcome to Oga?

When I first drafted this article, I planned to finish in this sanguine tone and emphasize once more the flexibility of heritage production and consumption. I thought I would conclude by invoking again the image I began with--the Namahage demon, knife poised, welcoming visitors to Oga--and suggest that this figure oxymoronically signifies the tension between residents and visitors, preservation and exploitation. Throughout most of the year, the image is not seen by visitors, but by residents of Oga. It signifies the yearly visitation of the Namahage, to be sure, but also signifies the visitation of the tourists--a salient reminder that Namahage is also constantly shaped by external influences.

This is how I had planned to end the essay. But something occurred in Oga that brought this image and the entire complex of relationships it signifies into greater relief. On the eve of 2008, in the hotel version of the event, one Namahage detached himself from the excitement in the lobby and made his way to the women's public bath in the hotel; there he proceeded to "touch the bodies" of several female bathers. The Namahage in question--a twenty-year-old Oga native who had been living in Tokyo--was performing the Namahage role for the first time and was reportedly drunk from his household visitations. As one community resident pointed out, "To run riot [abareru] is the Namahage's original role [honrai no sugata], but it is unthinkable that one would go into

a women's bath" (Asahi shimbun 2008d). The incident, and several subsequent complaints from female tourists, made national news and was particularly sensationalized by the tabloid-like "sports newspapers" (supotsu shinbun). By mid-January the Oga City webpage featured an apology "to tourists and everybody from areas throughout the country who have supported Oga City" (Asahi shimbun 2008a).

The behavior of the rogue Namahage set off a period of discussion within the Oga community that highlights the relationship between heritage and tourism, insider and outsider. One male hotel employee, for example, commented for the newspaper, "Namahage is our symbol. Going forward, I would like to make some rules and work to improve its image so that we can preserve the tradition." The same article also quotes folklorist Kamata Yukio, who explained that "Namahage is a folk event [minzoku gyoji] and not something to be shown to people outside the community. But these days we can't avoid its touristification. ... [I]t is necessary for the local residents to think about the way in which they want to be involved with tourism" (Asahi shimbun 2008e).

Various proposals were floated, and a range of opinions aired. Some felt a formal set of behavioral guidelines should be issued; others asserted that the Namahage had traditionally behaved in this fashion and nobody had ever complained before. By the end of the month, it was decided that no "handbook" for appropriate behavior would be created; rather, procedures would be left to each individual hamlet (Asahi shimbun 2008c). The Namahage Sedo Matsuri went ahead as planned in February, but an additional 20 security officials with Oga City armbands circulated amongst the Namahage and the tourists, "taking care not to destroy the festival atmosphere" (Asahi shimbun 2008b). Later, an official involved in the production of the Matsuri explained to me his profound shock and embarrassment that the "Namahage incident" (Namahage jiken) had ever occurred in the first place, but also expressed his relief that it had not adversely affected attendance at the festival.

The incident did, however, have a lasting effect on the performance. While the general course of events I observed at the Matsuri in 2010 and 2012 was the same as in 2000, the Namahage themselves were a little more subdued during their rampage through the crowds. They roared and blustered as in the past, but they did not actively chase the tourists around. Indeed, toward the end of the festival, they re-emerged much more peacefully to pose for photos with visitors. None of this newfound gentleness seemed to perturb the tourists, who were just as excited to be in the physical presence of a living Namahage and maybe collect a bit of good-luck straw, fallen from the Namahage's kende, as an additional souvenir.

Much could be said about the so-called Namahage incident and the soul searching that followed. Was the breach of conduct caused by a confusion of the "economies" outlined above (i.e., household ritual behavior performed in a hotel)? Was this an instance of an outsider Namahage (from Tokyo) misinterpreting an insider tradition? Was such a violation inevitable for an event that ritualizes transgression? Whatever the case, the incident underscores the importance of thinking hard about the role of hosts and guests and authenticity. What happens when the "commodity" sold to the tourist is a moment of real, unmediated fear? If, as I have suggested, the experience of the tourist is not necessarily "safe and virtual but sensual and embodied and affective," what does it mean when such an embodied and affective experience violates the expectations of the tourist, and indeed, the behavioral (if not legal) codes of the broader society in which the tourism is taking place?

It goes without saying that the Namahage incident was an extreme and anomalous event in Oga and within Japanese tourism in general. But it also reminds us that, even in much more everyday ways, the relationship between tradition and tourism, and between host and guest, always requires constant and careful negotiation. With this in mind, the threatening image of a demon greeting visitors to Oga becomes all the more poignant. Both a welcome and a warning, it remains paradoxically appropriate for inviting uninvited guests, and for tersely signifying the complex and ever-changing relationship, in Japan and elsewhere, of tradition and tourism.


My profound gratitude goes to the many people in Oga, both residents and visitors, who have generously shared their thoughts and feelings with me. There is no room to name everybody who has contributed to my understanding of Namahage over the years, but as the current article took shape, I benefited enormously from interactions with Ogano Minoru, Sugawara Noboru, Sugimoto Toshihiko, Takeuchi Hirokazu, Takeuchi Nobuhiko, Tanuma Akio, Watanabe Yukio, and all the Namahage performers in the Namahage Sedo Matsuri. Most of all, I thank Yamamoto Tsugio, his generous family, and the warm staff at the Yuzankaku hotel; without their "Namahage power," my research would have been impossible. Many other people provided invaluable input throughout the writing process, particularly Ariga Takashi, Christopher Bolton, Fukuda Ajio, Ilana Gershon, Hashimoto Hiroyuki, Kamata Yukio, Komatsu Kazuhiko, Komma Toru, Javier Leon, Susan Lepselter, the members of the Shingetsukai Research Group, and most of all, Michiko Suzuki. Much of the research for this essay was made possible through the generous support of two Fulbright grants, one that supported research from 1999-2001 and another that supported more recent fieldwork in 2012. Several phrases, concepts, and translations used in the current article have appeared in a previous publication (Foster 2007), and I thank the editor of the Proceedings of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies for permission to use them here. My great appreciation also goes to the editors of JAF and to two anonymous readers for their perceptive suggestions.

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(1.) Brief descriptions of Namahage can be found in numerous encyclopedias of folklore and festivals; for example, Seki (1960); Ine (1999); Otsuka minzokugaku-kai (1994:522); Sato and Yasuda (2008:431). For related observances within Japan, see Nakamura (1952); Seki (1960); Ine (2005:101-62); Oga no namahage hozon densho sokushin iinkai (1997:33-81); Yamamoto (1978:37-45; 136-9); Taira (2008a, 2008b, 2008c); Endo (2009:173-274); and Foster (2011). Comparable folkloric practices featuring masked performances are found in numerous cultures around the world; for a small sampling, see, for example: Bendix (1985); Endo (1990); Suwa and Kawamura (1997); Warner (1998); Halpert and Story (1969); Glassie (1975); Cashman (2000); Buckley et al. (2007); Gunnell (2007); Jackson (1997); and Creed (2011).

(2.) Along with knives, Namahage often also carry buckets on their evening rampages in order to store the namomi they cut off. Kamata (2004:106) suggests that symbolically, the removal of the old skin in the winter represents preparation for the desired new growth of the spring.

(3.) In its pre-war form, some versions of Namahage took place on koshogatsu or "little New Year," observed during the period of the first full moon of the new year; see Tanaka and Miyata (2000:104-7); and Otsuka minzokugaku-kai (1994:256-7). For more on the dates associated with Namahage, see Ine (2005:36-46).

(4.) Ine (1985:24) explains that in Oga City (Oga-shi), there are 60 versions, and in Wakami-machi (at the base of the Oga Peninsula), there are 18 versions. In 2005 the Wakamimachi area was incorporated into Oga City, so all these versions of Namahage are currently within the geographical designation of Oga City. According to a recent report, in 2008 some 51 neighborhoods still practiced some version of Namahage (Takeuchi 2009:25). For brief descriptions and photographs of various versions, see Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo (2004).

(5.) The Yumoto district commercially developed its natural hot springs with the opening of a number of hotels in the 1950s and 1960s (Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo 2004:30). The district has approximately 70 households, though the Namahage do not visit all of them.

The description here is based on my own initial participant-observation experience on New Year's Eve 1998, when I accompanied the Yumoto Namahage during their rounds, and supplemented by numerous follow-up interviews, discussions, and correspondence. Yoshiko Yamamoto's 1978 monograph provides an ethnographic account of the Namahage ritual as it took place in the hamlet of Iinomori in 1966-67. Ine (1985, 2005) is not ethnographic but offers an overview of the event. See Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo (2004) for a comparative perspective on Namahage within Oga.

(6.) I carried out fieldwork in Oga from December 1998 through January 1999, in February 2000, July 2009, February 2010, February 2012, July 2012, and February 2013. I am indebted to the numerous people, residents and tourists alike, who took time to share their experiences and ideas with me. All comments from interviews or conversations are referenced anonymously. I would, however, like to acknowledge by name Yamamoto Tsugio, who provided me with a wealth of information, introduced me to numerous contacts in the region, and has enthusiastically supported my research since our first meeting in 1998. I also thank Ogano Minoru, who, though not a native of Oga, has been photographing Namahage for some 30 years. I am particularly grateful to Takeuchi Nobuhiko, head priest at the Shinzan Shrine, who welcomed me into his home and generously allowed me to participate in discussions with festival organizers and performers in 2010, 2012, and 2013. All translations from Japanese, whether oral or written, are my own. Japanese names are noted in Japanese order, with the family name first, with the exception of authors of texts published in English.

(7.) See Ine (1985:55-6) for the call in the local dialect.

(8.) Namahage can be fruitfully analyzed from a number of perspectives, including rites of passage (van Gennep 1960), communitas (Turner 1969, 1982), symbolic inversion (Babcock 1977), and Bell's concept of "ritualization" as a "strategy for the construction of certain types of power relationships effective within particular social organizations" (Bell 1992:197). For recent English-language analyses of ritual practices specifically in Japan, see Schnell (1999), Ivy (1995), and Schattschneider (2003). Schnell offers particular insight into ways communities shape ritual and festival within changing social contexts. For a recent folkloric analysis of a very different kind of winter festival that grapples with some similar issues, see Gabbert (2011).

(9.) For more on these legends, see Ine (1985, 2005); Yamamoto (1978); and Otsuki (2004).

(10.) Sugae Masumi, whose real name was Shirai Hideo, was a medical practitioner, scholar, and poet with an abiding interest in archeology and local customs. He documented in great detail his journeys through the northern regions of current-day Niigata, Akita, Aomori, and Hokkaido. The passage here was recorded on the fifteenth day of the first month in the eighth year of the Bunka Period (1811) in "Oga no samukaze." In recent years, some Oga residents have actively begun to research Sugae's relationship with the region, reproducing his work in local publications; see, for example, Oga-shi kyoiku inkai (2008:59-60) for his passage on Namahage. See also Ishigooka (2008). Despite his importance in Oga, nationally Sugae remains a relatively obscure historical figure, and, as one of my interlocutors in Oga lamented, efforts to develop his connection for touristic purposes have not proved successful. For more on Sugae's writing on Namahage and other festival events in Akita Prefecture, see Taguchi (2002:185-214).

(11.) Yanagita discusses Sugae's travel writing in his essay "Yukiguni no haru" (Yanagita 1970:18-31) and in "Sugae Masumi" (Yanagita 1968:345-493). See Yanagita (1970:123-9) for more about Namahage (or "Namahagi," as Yanagita calls it).

(12.) Although the present article is not explicitly about the ethnographic self, my own position as an observer cannot be elided from the process of observation. As a foreign (American) visitor to Oga, I am clearly an outsider, not only from beyond the borders of Oga but also from beyond the boundaries of the Japanese archipelago. To an extent, this noticeable foreignness, along with my academic affiliation, actually affords me disproportionate access to events and explanations; my "seriousness" of purpose distinguishes me from domestic tourists who had come simply to "play." My own position vis-a-vis both local residents as well as tourists (from elsewhere in Japan) has driven home to me the complexity of relationships developed through tourism; outsider and insider are always relative categories.

(13.) Much has been written on the connections between modernity and the development of Japanese folkloristics. In English, see for example, Ivy (1995); Figal (1999); Harootunian (2000); Christy (1997); Morris-Suzuki (1998); and Foster (2009a).

(14.) Elsewhere Orikuchi (1995a, Vol. 17:123) inscribes marebito as marebito-kami, glossing the term with the characters for guest (kyaku) and deity (kami).

(15.) Orikuchi's work has also been criticized for a tendency toward "essentialism" (Shimamura 2003:199).

(16.) See Suwa (1992:48). Much has been written on the marebito. For an interesting perspective, see Akasaka (1985:78-106); also Yoshida (1981); Ohnuki-Tierney (1993:53-5).

(17.) On the dispute between the two scholars, see Nishimura (1998:14-5); Suwa (1992:48-9). My discussion of Orikuchi and Yanagita by no means represents a historical review of scholarship on Namahage. In fact, it was a description first provided by Oga native Yoshida Saburo (1905-1979) in 1935 that really brought Namahage to scholarly attention and made it emblematic of Akita folk events. See Ine (1985:18-23, 124-8); and Ine (2005:22-5). For more on the history of Namahage scholarship, see Nihon kaiiki bunka kenkyujo (2004:109-14).

(18.) A popular introductory "dictionary" of minzokugaku features a Namahage on the cover, one of many examples of the embeddedness of Namahage within the popular understanding of Japanese folkloristics (see Shintani 1999).

(19.) In the early 1970s, Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei famously lamented the cultural changes wrought by Japan's unprecedented industrialization: "The rapid rise in urban population has caused an increase in the number of people living in the big city--with no mountain in which to chase a rabbit, no river in which to catch small carp, and only a tiny apartment to call their hometown" (Tanaka 1973:1). For more on the rural response to Japan's rapid industrialization, see, for example, Robertson (1991); Ivy (1995); Knight (1994); Creighton (1997); Yasui (1997); and Schnell (1999). For a focus on urbanization within Akita Prefecture, see Mock (2006).

(20.) My conflation of ethnographers with tourists here is intentional; they are, at least on some levels, "distant relatives." (Crick 1995:205); see also Crick (1985); Bruner (1995); Bruner (2005:191-210). In the case of the Namahage, ethnographic observation and touristic interest have both contributed to the way Oga residents identify and market their tradition.

(21.) The town of Tono in Iwate Prefecture provides a particularly well-documented example of such cooptation and skillful use of a rich folkloric image; see Ivy (1995). For debates about these issues surrounding a ritual similar to Namahage, see Foster (2011). For more on government designations of "cultural properties" with regard to folk performing arts, see Hashimoto (1998); Thornbury (1997); and Saitsu (1997, 2006).

(22.) Namahage may be, as folklorist Kamata Yukio notes, "the representative existence of Oga" (Kamata 2004:106), but its role within the broader identity politics of Akita is anything but simple. Akita natives from regions outside Oga, for example, may have mixed feelings about the use of an Oga symbol to represent the entire prefecture. (I am grateful to Shinko Kagaya of Williams College for this critical observation; personal communication, April 19, 2004). Having said that, Namahage souvenirs can be found throughout the prefecture and have even been adopted, in cutesified comic-book style, as mascots (Namii and Hagii) for an Akita bank (Akita Shinkin Bank). Unsurprisingly, even within Oga, there is not always agreement as to how Namahage should be represented to others. Some residents expressed to me dissatisfaction with the presentation of Namahage culture at the Namahage-kan, and others lamented the transformation of the Namahage into a "cartoon character."

(23.) Along with the Namahage itself, the history of the Namahage's inscription in the cultural imagination becomes part of touristic consumption. In one Yumoto hotel, for example, tourists can insert their faces into a life-size cutout of Sugae Masumi, symbolically replicating his experience as an outside visitor traveling to Oga.

(24.) In the last several decades, authenticity has been one of the most debated issues in tourism theory, and there is a voluminous critical literature on the subject. I have found the following discussions particularly helpful for considering authenticity vis-a-vis Namahage: Wang (1999); Culler (1981); Frow (1991); Bendix (1997); Taylor (2001); Bruner and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (1994); Bruner (2005); Kirschenblatt-Gimblett (1998); Urry (2002); Cary (2004); and Oakes (2006).

(25.) See also Brumann (2009:295), who aptly describes the "social life of cultural heritage" in an urban Japanese setting.

(26.) Any number of terms might do for what I describe here, but "versions" seems most appropriate as a word that does not privilege an "original" and also resonates with the long folkloristic appreciation of version and variant as key interpretive tools.

(27.) Voyeuristic access to the household ritual in Yumoto is not explicitly denied to the curious tourist or ethnographer; along with one tourist from the city of Kobe, for example, in 1998 I was permitted to accompany the Namahage on their rounds from house to house, witnessing the ritual from outside the open door of the household. In other words, the closing of the economy here may be more practical than ideological. If the number of insistent visitors such as myself increased beyond one or two people willing to peek in through an open door, there would be literally no place from which observers could watch.

(28.) Writing of his observations of Namahage in 1980, Richard Schechner notes that the Namahage in the hamlet of Iinomori made an extended stop in a youth hostel. He presciently suggests that eventually "Oga hotels will include a namahage performance along with other attractions" and that "it will serve as a tourist attraction, doing its share to keep Oga in business" (Schechner 2004:281).

(29.) Orikuchi's delineations are notoriously complex; my characterizations here are necessarily simplified for the sake of brevity and clarity. For more on his theories regarding the origins of the performing arts, see Nishimura (1998:387-9); Hashimoto (1994, 1995, 2004). My discussion of Orikuchi's theories is deeply influenced by Hashimoto's writings on the subject; I am also very grateful to Professor Hashimoto for initially introducing me to Orikuchi's "uninvited guest" concept and encouraging me to explore its relevance to my own research on Namahage.

(30.) Hashimoto (2004:232) notes: "Possibly due to the fact that there are few references to 'the uninvited guests,' this concept is not often included in the lists of Orikuchi's technical vocabulary. It is as if this concept itself is treated as an 'uninvited' idea in Orikuchi's history of performing arts. Yet, much attention should have been paid to this concept, because it is one of the central ideas of the theory of the origin of performing arts."

(31.) Until recently, Japanese folklorists and anthropologists tended to view such tourism in a negative light, as something that corrupts folk culture and should be avoided as an explicit subject of study, an attitude that is starting to change (Saitsu 1999:1); also Morita (2003). There have been a number of important English-language studies focusing on relevant issues of Japanese tourism; these include Graburn's groundbreaking early work (1983); Graburn (1998); Ehrentrout (1993); Martinez (1990); Robertson (1995); Creighton (1997); and Brumann and Cox (2010). See also Thornbury's insights on performing arts and folklorism in Japan (1995).

(32.) The notion that spectators are key to the transformation of ritual and festival into sightseeing event is not exclusive to Orikuchi; contemporary scholars have focused on this dynamic as it concerns a number of Japanese festivals. See, for example, Wazaki (1987); and Komatsu (1997). For more on the "eventification" of ritual, see Nakano (2006).

(33.) Although this is not the place to fully explore the complex distinctions between ritual and festival (in Japan and elsewhere), I would note simply that the word matsuri is systematically (and officially) applied to this event but rarely to New Year's Eve versions (which are often labeled gyoji, "event" or "ritual"); certainly the Namahage Sedo Matsuri falls neatly into characterizations of festival as "public in nature, participatory in ethos, complex in structure, and multiple in voice, scene, and purpose" (Stoeltje 1992:261).

(34.) I am grateful to Akiyama Makoto of the Oga City Tourist Board for sharing these informal statistics with me. Several local residents indicated that the last night of the three-night event is generally quieter, as many of the tourists have already returned home.

(35.) The description here is derived primarily from my own initial observations of the festival in the year 2000. When I visited again in 2010 and 2012, the general contours and procedures were the same, but several important changes will be noted later in the article. For more details on the festival see Saito (1998:63-84); Sato and Yasuda (2008:63-4); and Taira (2008c).

(36.) Since 2002, a group of young taiko performers calling themselves Namahage Go-Kagura Taiko have continued their performances for visitors in the off-season. Almost every evening between March and October, they put on a brief but vigorous concert in Gofu Hall in Yumoto. Guests from local hotels are brought by bus to the performance; admission is free but donations are encouraged and there are souvenirs for sale.

(37.) The pervasiveness of digital photography adds a new dimension to this dynamic, enabling the photographer to immediately view the decontextualized, framed image. Cell-phone cameras and smart phones provide a further twist: the spectator can transmit the captured image in (almost) real time to others far from the event site (Foster 2009b). As Urry points out, photographs implicate the tourist in a "hermeneutic circle" through which proof of "authenticity" relies on the similarity of the acquired images to those viewed in anticipation of the journey: "[I]t ends up with travellers demonstrating that they really have been there by showing their version of the images that they had seen before they set off" (Urry 2002:129). See also Frow (1991).

(38.) For more on invented traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) within a Japanese context, see Vlastos (1998). When speaking of the Namhage Sedo Matsuri, many residents and the performers themselves refer to it as the "tourist event" (kanko gyoji) in clear distinction to the "New Year's Eve event" (omisoka no gyoji). Whatever its orientation, however, now that it has been performed for five decades, the Matsuri is firmly entrenched as an annual calendrical occasion. The transmission of skills from older to younger performers and the preparing of costumes, etc., all follow folkloric processes similar to those of many other events in the community. Interestingly, the masks used in the Matsuri are not selected from any of the existing designs worn in the hamlets; rather, they were expressly designed by Ishikawa Taiko, a professional mask-maker from the Nyudozaki district of Oga. Masks in the Ishikawa style have become a trans-Oga generic "face" of Namahage, for sale at the Namahage-kan and used in T-shirt patterns and souvenirs. (In 2011, instead of Ishikawa masks, the Namahage in the Matsuri wore a range of masks from different hamlets. According to festival organizers, however, the lack of uniformity, and the less "scary" nature of some of these masks, was not well received by tourists. In 2012, performers reverted to the Ishikawa masks, but a new event, in which masks from different hamlets are modeled by Namahage on the kagura-den stage, was added to the festival.)

(39.) Interview with tourist board official on February 14, 2000. Follow-up interviews with other residents in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013 confirm that hotel owners and local leaders continue to work together to create and promote new ideas in order to market Oga and Namahage. With the continued decline of agriculture and fishing, one hotel owner explained: "[T]ourism is the only thing left."

(40.) Ogano Minoru, personal communication, February 15, 2010. Ogano made this point in the presence of several Oga residents involved in the Matsuri, all of whom agreed with him.

(41.) The creature is a minor character called "O-nama-sama."

(42.) See Matsumura (1995:1519).

(43.) The importance of sensory experience beyond the visual cannot be overemphasized and is, perhaps, a key factor in the movement from "exhibition value" to "cult value" for the observer/participant. In recent years, anthropologists have paid more attention to "the human's multi-sensory needs" (Graburn 2001:82). See, for example, Edensor (2006).

(44.) Ethnographies of tourism often lack satisfactory representation of the "tourist side" of the equation, a problem stemming in part from the practical difficulties of interviewing a sufficient number of tourists at a popular site. With that in mind, my own speculations here about tourist motives are limited and tentative.

(45.) Sensha-fuda (also senja-fuda) began during the Edo period (c. 1603-1868) and is a form of folk art, a kind of sacred graffiti in which practitioners undertake pilgrimages in order to paste votive labels on temples and shrines throughout Japan. As such, it is an early form of domestic tourism. The labels themselves are often wood-block prints of stylized calligraphy on Japanese paper (washi); a well-made, well-placed label can last up to 50 years. For more on sensha-fuda, see Saito (2006).

(46.) Bruner, for example, has isolated four different meanings for the word--verisimilitude, genuineness, originality, and authority (Bruner 2005:151).

(47.) My notion of subjective authenticity here is similar to Wang's "existential authenticity," which he develops from Heideggerian concepts of Being (dasein). Wang explains:

Existential authenticity, unlike object-related version [sic], can often have nothing to do with the issue of whether toured objects are real. In search of tourist experience which is existentially authentic, tourists are occupied with an existential state of Being activated by certain tourist activities. To put it another way, existential experience is the authenticity of Being, which, as a potential, is to be subjectively or intersubjectively sampled by tourists as the process of tourism unfolds. (Wang 1999:359)

See also Cary (2004); and Oakes (2006).

Michael Dylan Foster is Associate Professor at Indiana University

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Foster, Michael Dylan. "Inviting the uninvited guest: ritual, festival, tourism, and the Namahage of Japan." Journal of American Folklore, vol. 126, no. 501, 2013, p. 302+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 20 May 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A339428255