6.COM 13.26

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Japan has nominated Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, described as follows:

Oga no Namahage is an annual event celebrated in Japan in which visiting deities bless the people of a community. On the night of 31 December and 15 January (known as Koshogatsu, Little New Year), young men visit houses within the community disguised as a deity called ‘Namahage’, wearing a red or blue demon-like mask, raincoats made from straw, with seaweed for hair and carrying a huge knife, bowl and a holy guardian stick. The Namahage bless the people of the community, but also assume the role of maintaining order by preaching correct behaviour and attitudes. When a group of Namahage enter a house, they scold children, preach to new brides, and admonish idlers. After a good dinner and hearty conversation with the homeowner, the Namahage pray for a happy new year and leave for the next house. They are welcomed in every household except those that have experienced a death or birth within the year. Oga no Namahage is based upon a Japanese belief that deities regularly visit human communities from the underworld. The Association for the Preservation of the Oga Namahage Ritual endeavours to transmit the knowledge and skills of Oga no Namahage by holding workshops on manners of Namahage and making Namahage costumes. In addition, the Namahage Museum and the Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum organize displays and lectures on the practice of Namahage.

  1. Decides that, from the information provided in nomination file 00410, Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List, as follows:

R.1:   Oga no Namahage is an expression of Japan’s folk belief that takes place at the end of each year, is passed on from generation to generation and is recognized by the community as part of its intangible cultural heritage;

R.3:   Ongoing and proposed safeguarding measures including workshops, training and seminars, and documentation indicate the commitment of the communities and the State Party to ensure the protection and promotion of Oga no Namahage;

R.4:   The nomination demonstrates that the community and other stakeholders have participated in the nomination process and the Association for the Preservation of the Oga Namahage Ritual has provided its free, prior and informed consent;

R.5:   With the participation and consent of the concerned associations, Oga no Namahage was inscribed in 1978 as an Important Intangible Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

  1. Further decides that the information provided in nomination file 00410, Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita, is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the criterion for inscription on the Representative List is satisfied, as follows:

R.2:   Since the element closely resembles, both formally and symbolically, the Koshikijima no Toshidon that is already inscribed on the Representative List, the State should explain how its inscription will contribute to promoting greater added awareness of the significance of the intangible cultural heritage.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination in a subsequent cycle, providing the additional information specified with regard to criterion R.2.

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