Contest where Sumo wrestlers make babies cry returns to Tokyo (VIDEO)

May 1 2023, 8:50 pm

The Naki Sumo Crying Baby Festival, also known as Nakizumo, is a popular folk contest which has been held in Japan for over 400 years.

Last week, the festival returned to Sensoji Temple in Tokyo for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, following a four-year hiatus due to health concerns.

A total of 64 babies took part at the Tokyo temple this year.

The festivity is held annually in Shinto temples across Japan during late April and early May.

This bizarre yet intriguing festival centers around contests in which two babies dressed in ceremonial sumo aprons are held opposite each other by sumo wrestlers in an open-air ring.

The sumo wrestlers make faces, chant “naki,” meaning “cry” in Japanese, and shake the children. The first baby to cry is declared the winner, signalled by a referee with a wooden fan.

In the not-uncommon event that both babies start crying at the same time, the winner is the baby who cries the loudest.

Sumo wrestlers also wear “oni” devil masks to help bring the toddlers to tears.

Sumo wrestlers make babies cry

George Melin/Shutterstock

Variations in competition rules exist across temples in Japan.

In Japanese folklore, crying is seen as a sign of good health in children and is said to protect them from evil spirits.

A Japanese proverb states, “naku ko wa sodatsu,” meaning “crying babies grow fastest.”

Here is a video of the Naki Sumo Festival at Shirahata Shrine in 2019.

The Crying Baby Festival is open to children from six months old and is very popular amongst parents.

The opportunity is so sought after, in fact, that parents wanting their child to compete at Sensoji Temple must enter a lottery and pay 15,000¥ (about $150) if chosen to take part.

Would you let your child compete? Let us know in the comments.

Harry LinleyHarry Linley

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