A journey of mysteries, Aramata-style
Tours of mysteries have long been a popular style of travel among everyday people. Naturalist Hiroshi Aramata presents a tour of mysteries befitting Japan's new Reiwa era, as a new way to enjoy summer in eastern Japan. He introduces three of the mysteries on his journey.
First is the Namahage Museum, located on the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. There are 150 or more Namahage demon masks on display here, telling the tale of the Oga Peninsula. Namahage are visiting deities who roam around local village houses on New Year's Eve, roaring wildly. While often believed simply a local folk event at New Year's Eve, this primitive faith's similarity with Christmas and Halloween in Europe offers a thrill of mystery.
The team visited Tsuruoka to see the collection of nature illustrations and inventions left by Taneyasu Matsumori, a retainer of the Shonai Domain (modern Yamagata Prefecture), who was active from the late Edo period to the Meiji period. Matsumori left drawings of an airship he called the “bird ship,” among 500 works created over his lifetime. Elite enough to carry the burden of feudal politics, why did he devote himself to producing pictorial books and inventions? The team investigated this elusive figure.
Kintaichi Onsen in Ninohe City, Iwate Prefecture, is known as a town of Zashiki-warashi—spirits from folklore that take the form of children. The long-established traditional inn Ryokufuso is famous for eyewitness accounts, and its guardian spirit, called either the Zashiki-warashi or Kamemaro, is venerated at a shrine on the premises. However, when Aramata’s team visited, they didn’t see any spirits or monsters—but instead turtle fossils!