Sumo Wrestlers Bring Babies to Tears as Part of Centuries Old Festival

By Jaime Lutz

Apr 26, 2014 1:54pm
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Held by college sumo wrestlers, a couple of babies cry in their Naki Sumo or Crying Baby Contest at Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo)

Most of the time, people don’t take a lot of joy out of a baby crying. This festival’s the exception.

In the Nakizumo Festival, held throughout Japan, sumo wrestlers hold babies and make weird noises and faces in an attempt to make infants cry. The baby who cries first (or, if two babies start crying at the same time, the one who cries the loudest) is the victor.

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Held by a college sumo wrestler, a baby cries during his Naki Sumo or Crying Baby Contest at Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo)

The tradition is hundreds of years old, with mythical roots. The Japanese have a saying, “Naku ko wa sodatsu” (“Crying babies grow fast”). It was believed that a loud cry from an innocent baby will scare away demons, ensuring that the kid grows up healthy.

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A baby held by a student sumo wrestler cries during the "Baby-cry Sumo" competition at the Sensoji temple in Tokyo on April 26, 2014. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

The festival has a silly, festive air to it, so many of the babies don’t cry. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, sumos sometimes will put on scary masks to goad them into it and shout “Naki! Naki! Naki!” — literally, “Cry! Cry! Cry!”

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Babies held by student sumo wrestlers cry while a referee, center, in a traditional costume looks on during the "Baby-cry Sumo" competition at the Sensoji temple in Tokyo on April 26, 2014. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

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