Japan’s “crying baby sumo” festival, which involves scared infants competing against each other by loudly weeping, has returned for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival, which is known as Nakizumo in Japanese but also referred to as the Crying Baby Festival, is an annual festival held in shrines and temples across Japan.
The rules differ depending on the region where the event takes place, but the infant who loudly cries first is typically considered the winner.
During the competition, the babies’ parents held them up for one-on-one crying battles in a sumo ring, which were monitored by a referee wearing a traditional costume.
Staff members would attempt to make the babies sob by wearing “oni” demon masks to scare them. The baby who cried first was declared by the referee as the winner, but if both infants started crying at the same time, the baby with the loudest cries won.
Some regions have sumo wrestlers carrying the babies in the ring while yelling “Naki! Naki! Naki!” (Cry! Cry! Cry!) to encourage them to weep.
Although the festival is free for the public to watch, parents may need to pay a fee for their children to participate, depending on the region. In Hiroshima in 2012, for example, parents were expected to pay 5,000 yen (approximately $37).
While the festival may seem horrifying to unfamiliar onlookers, the chairperson of Asakusa Tourism Federation, the Tokyo event’s organizer, believes otherwise.
“In Japan, we believe babies who cry powerfully also grow up healthily,” Shigemi Fuji told AFP News Agency. “This kind of event takes place in many places in Japan.”
AFP News Agency also noted that many parents believe the 400-year-old Japanese ritual brings good health to the infants.