The Japanese Crying Baby Festival is no doubt Worlds’ Strangest Festivals, Nakizumo is an annual Spring festival at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.
It’s a competition between babies to see who can cry the loudest first. Babies are handed by their parents to two friendly novice Sumo wrestlers. A Gyoji (Sumo referee) officiates. The Sumo wrestlers do nothing more than smile to get the babies crying.
In Tokyo’s version, the sumo wrestlers attempt to illicit tears by growling, grunting, tickling, and a number of other moves that cause no physical harm to the children. If neither wrestler brings their child to screaming tears within 4 seconds, the judge intervenes. He wears traditional masks that look like demons, while also making noises and scary faces to cause the babies to cry.
1. In the 500-year-old festival of Nakizumo, which literally translates as ‘crying baby sumo’ student sumo wrestlers compete to make children bawl.
2. The wrestlers take a child each into the ring, then pull faces and shout Naki, meaning ‘cry’, to start the tears flowing. Whoever cries first in the winner.
3. If both babies begin crying at the same time then whoever is the loudest is declared victorious. The competition takes place in the Sensoji temple, Tokyo.
4. The festival is based on the proverb ‘crying babies grow fastest’ and is designed to bring good health. The sound of screams is also thought to ward off evil spirits.
5. In order to compete in the festival, babies must have been born in the previous year.
6. A sumo wrestler holds a crying baby during the traditional festival.
7. If the babies don’t cry, laugh or even fall asleep, then it is up to the referee to get the tears flowing using a traditional oni, or ogre, mask.
8. Once they begin bawling the babies are held up high so their screams will be closer to heaven which the Japanese believe will strengthen the blessing.
9. The ritual takes place all over Japan but is most commonly performed by student sumos at the Buddhist Sensoji temple in Tokyo.
10. The contest is watched over by a traditional sumo referee called a gyoji, who wears an elaborate silk outfit in order to denote his rank, and holds a wooden fan used to start the bout.
11. The festival is held on April 26th each year and is part of Golden Week, a period of nine official public holidays which lasts from late April until early May.
12. Sumos hold babies while competing to make them cry the fastest during the annual Nakizumo festival held in Sensoji temple, Tokyo, Japan.
13. One baby looks on with a rather sinister scowl as the other child weeps, meaning she is the winner of this round of Nakizumo.
14. In order to take part in the competition, the infants are often dressed up in miniature kimonos, have devil horns put on their head or wear bibs with traditional writing on them.
15. Babies are held face to face to determine how loud and long they can cry. Some 120 babies attended the event this year.
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