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As a child, Tatsuo Sato was terrified when the Namahage demons roared into his house every year, but in adulthood he mourned as the centuries-old tradition faded away.

“The kids disappeared, the young people disappeared. We had to give it up,” Sato, 78, said of the New Year’s Eve visits by men in horned masks and straw capes, all shouting “Are there any bad kids here?”

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