Have a misbehaving child or a colleague who just doesn’t pull their weight? Take them to Namahage Ginza for a centuries-old admonishment.
Picture it: a conversation among friends seated around a table. Some aperitif being sipped on. The smells of hearty foods mixing together. The steam from a stew swirling in the air. And then … you are approached by a monster intent on terrifying you into becoming a better person. No, this isn’t your teenage nightmare of being completely humiliated by your raging parent while your friends watch. This is the dining experience that you have paid for at Tokyo’s popular Akita Dining Namahage Ginza restaurant.
Namahage Ginza specializes in providing each diner with meals reflecting the traditional foods of the Akita Prefecture. Located close to the tip of mainland Japan, Akita Prefecture is known for its kiritanpo (rice sticks), chicken and fish dishes.
The prefecture is also known for its annual New Year’s Eve tradition of sending out the terrifying namahage ogre to scare little children into good behaviour for the coming year. The ogre (hopefully just a man in a horrifying mask and costume!) comes from Japanese folklore and, nowadays, is guided by a parent’s request to teach their child a lesson of some type (i.e., “don’t be a baddie, Jimmy!”).
So, how does this all fit into a restaurant that has a seating capacity of 150? Well, the menu is made up of tasty nabe soups, smoked and pickled veggies (an Akita specialty) and popular chicken dishes. In an izakaya, or Japanese pub-like atmosphere, a variety of drinks are available, including sakes from the Akita Prefecture. The decor of the restaurant harkens back to a more distant time in Japan and canbe described as a traditional setting with low tables and on-the-floor seating (with comfortable leg room!). If you want to enhance your experience, ask to be seated in one of the round, hut-like structures used in the Akita Prefecture to provide shelter from the elements (no worries, I’ve been assured that it will not snow in the restaurant).
Then, once you’ve settled into your meal, you may want to prepare yourself for the dimming of the lights and the loud screams of the namahage as they come searching for “lazy people!” (your co-worker) or “bad boys!” (your nephew who never listens). From there, you can sit back while the namahage take care of changing your friend, co-worker, nephew or sibling’s behaviour forever. Well, okay, the restaurant can’t assure you of that. But it can certainly assure you of an experience that you won’t soon forget!
Prices at Namahage Ginza are reasonable. Although you will be required to pay a sitting fee of ¥630 (about seven dollars), you can try a variety of dishes for around $30–50 Canadian. And like many of Japan’s unique theme restaurants, Namahage Ginza is popular with families looking to turn the dinner hour into an event. So, bring the kiddies! If you happen to be a person who doesn’t like the idea of dining in a restaurant frequented by youngsters, take the opportunity to suggest to namahage that he publicly berate parents for bringing their badly behaved children out with them. Truly something for everybody.
While Namahage Ginza is open every day of the week, on Fridays you can really plan for a night out—as the restaurant stays open until 4:00 Saturday morning. That gives the stout of heart a chance to dine with demons all night long. (Wear your stretch pants to really take advantage of the extended hours—more equals more food consumption!)
Get to know Akita Prefecture
Walk into Namahage Ginza prepared. Know some facts about Akita Prefecture!
> Akita Prefecture is located in the northern part of Honshu, Japan.
> Akita City was founded on April 1, 1889.
> Akita dogs originated here. They are big and tough … but, luckily, they’re a lot cuter than the namahage.
> Hachikō was a famous and beloved Akita dog. He was also the subject of a Japanese film—and an American remake starring Richard Gere.
> The namahage visits terrified children on December 31. He previously visited on the night of the first full moon.
> One of northern Japan’s biggest summer festivals is held in Akita City in August: the Kanto Matsuri Festival (or pole lantern festival), which attracts 1.3 million people annually.
> Akita Prefecture is home to Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan.
Akita Dining Namahage Ginza
Open for dinner, reservations are recommended. Call 050-2018-1384 for the English-language
reservation service. Located a three-minute walk from Shimbashi Station or a five-minute walk from Ginza Station.
Nakajima Shoji Building 9F, 8-5-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Mon–Thurs: 5:00 pm–11:30 pm
Fri & days before holidays: 5:00 pm–4:00 am
Sat–Sun: 5:00 pm–11:30 pm