Namahage (生剥) is a Japanese ritual which is observed throughout Oga Peninsula, Akita Prefecture in northern Honshū, Japan. It is said to have originated as a ritual for cleansing people's souls, and for blessing the new year. It is a kind of toshigami.
On New Year's Eve, a group of young men dressed up as fierce demons or bogeymen, Namahage, visit each house in the village, shouting: "any misbehaving kids live here?" They then scare children in the houses, telling them not to be lazy or cry, though little children often do burst into tears. Then the parents will assure the Namahage that there is no bad child in their house, and give food or traditional Japanese alcoholic beverages to the demons.
An obvious purpose of the festival is to encourage young children to obey their parents and to behave, important qualities in Japan's heavily structured society.