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Inviting the Uninvited Guest: Ritual, Festival, Tourism, and the Namahage of Japan


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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