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The Matagi (Japanese: 又鬼) are traditional winter hunters of the Tōhoku region of northern Japan, most famously today in the Shirakami-Sanchi forest between Akita and Aomori. They hunt deer and bear, and their culture has much in common with the bear worship of the Ainu. They live in small hamlets of the mountain beech forests of Tōhoku and engage in agriculture during the planting and harvest season. In the winter and early spring, they form hunting bands that spend weeks at a time in the forest. With the introduction of guns in the 20th century, the need for group hunting for bear has diminished, leading to a decline in Matagi culture.
Matagi hamlets are found in the districts of Nishitsugaru and Nakatsugaru (Aomori Prefecture), Kitaakita and Senboku (Akita Prefecture), Waga (Iwate Prefecture), Nishiokitama and Tsuruoka (Yamagata Prefecture), Murakami and Nakauonuma (Niigata Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture).
The Matagi are attested from the medieval period but continue to hunt today. They have come into conflict with environmentalists now that the forest has been partly cleared. They no longer hunt the Japanese serow, which is protected, but continue to hunt bear. Matagi hunt by special license.
Terms And Language
- Kane mochi - A variant of the regular mochi whose methods of creation varies from each Matagi villages.
- Aoshishi - The Matagi term for serow, which they would hunt.
- Mukaimatte - A hunter whose job it is to give orders and keep an eye out.
- Matsumae - Hunters that carry guns to take down the target.
- Seko - Hunters that do not carry guns, but whose role it is to shout at the target and drive it in front of the hunters carrying guns.
- Itazu - The Matagi term for bears.
- Masuke - A knife Matagi carries with them, which they consider an incredibly important object.
- Kuragee - A pouch that Matagi uses to carry food.
When Matagi hunt, they do it by encircling and driving their prey. There's one hunter called a "Mukaimatte" Whose job is to give orders and keep an eye out. There are two hunters carrying guns called "Matsumai". Then there are two more hunters without guns. called "Seko". The job of the Seko is to shout at the target and drive it in front of the Matagi who are carrying guns.
Yama no Kami (山の神)
She is the mountain goddess. She is a lover of both animals and also of the wild world of the mountains, she is a kind of guardian of the Matagi. It can take the form of any animal or human, and it has the mortal jealousy of any woman.
- Specialised Matagi hunting vocabulary contains Ainu words. Indeed, the word matagi itself may be Ainu, from matangi or matangitono, "man of winter, hunter".
- Matagi Songs: The Matagi created a system of chants and actions designed to guide the spirit of the bear to life after death and avoid being cursed by its spirit.
|Gold Hunters||7th Division • Hijikata's Group • Kiroranke's Group • Sugimoto's Group|
|People of the North||Ainu • Matagi • Nivkh • Orok|
|Others||Abashiri Convicts • Central Government • Imperial Japanese Army • Three Great Nobles of the Restoration • Yamada Circus Troupe|