I was sooo lucky to finally meet the grandfather of the family, Seiichiro-san, who my Dad is always raving about as being the nicest guy. :-) Seiichiro-san made a trip up from Akita by ferry to Hokkaido, so we met in Sapporo for a long coffee chat. He was the sweeeeetest!!! He came bearing so many kind gifts from Akita and shared many stories.
My favorite Akita tradition he told me about is that of Namahage!!!!
Akita is famous for the children eating monster - NAMAHAGE!!!!!! oooooh.... He is sooo cool!
Seiichiro-san told me that on New Year's Eve a group of young men dress up as the fierce Namahage and go around each house in the village shouting: "ANY MISBEHAVING KIDS LIVE HERE!??!?!" They then run around the house telling them not to be lazy or to cry even though the kids are normally so terrified that they burst into tears. Seiichiro-san said when he was a little boy he was petrified of Namahage. awwww.... To make Namahage go away they parents give Namahage loads of booze, food and gifts and reassure him that their children have been good this year. hahaha....
Namahage is waaaaay cooler than coal.
Seiichiro even gave me this awesome phone charm of Namahage riding a jet-motobike!
The charm will remind me to be a good girl this year. ;-)