Every year, as I have mentioned, the Oni descend from the mountains to visit, sometimes fiercely, sometimes nicely, often threaten misbehaving children, are propitiated with food, drink, music and dance, perform themselves, and take themselves back to the mountains for another year, leaving promises of good fortune, or at least not afflicting the community with bad fortune.
In Oga, near Akita in the the Tohoku region of northern Honshu, there is a famous annual festival that draws visitors from all over the country. The Namahage festival is held in mid-February. True to form, the Oni, played by beautifully costumed locals, come down from the mountains. They dance, and several incredibly talented members of the troupe play Taiko and gong in a rousing performance. They scare children, reminding me of the Seafair Pirates of Seattle as they work the crowd, and then, after being provided with food and drink, take themselves off to the mountains again for another year.
Setsubon, of course, is kind of a miniature home version of this festival, which is also sometimes played out in small communities with an annual house-to-house visit from the local Oni, in kind of a cross between Santa Claus and Trick-or-Treat.
But the Oga Nagahame is a big one! It's one of the biggest in the country and I would love to go to it sometime, freezing in the cold as the torch-bearing Oni come down the mountain.
It looked like great fun. The Oni came down the mountain, "terrorized" the crowd and danced, with folk style moves reminiscent of Sumo wrestlers warming up. Some of them enacted a visit, on stage, to a home where they frightened, were fed, and ate, all per classic protocol. Then there was a wonderful Taiko performance.