Japan’s Crying Baby Sumo Festival has finally returned for the first time after the pandemic.
64 babies faced off on Saturday April 23, at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.
The 400-year-old “Nakizumo” tradition is held annually at different Shinto shrines around May 5, to coincide with Children’s Day.
The specific customs and rules vary by region, but the main purpose is to make babies cry because, in Japan, people believe tears bring the infants good health and drive away evil spirits.
There is a saying in Japan, “naku ko wa sodatsu”, which means “crying babies grow fastest”.
Traditionally, babies wearing sumo aprons arewere held facing each other by professional or student sumo wrestlers, while staff with “oni” demon masks on try to make the babies cry.
The first baby to cry is declared the winner by the referee, holding a wooden fan that signals victory.
Only babies between the ages of 6 months and 18 months can participate. Each year, around 100 babies will join the competition in Tokyo.
“We can tell a baby’s health by listening to the way they cry. Today she may get nervous and not cry so much, but I want to hear her healthy crying,” Hisae Watanabe, the mother of an eight-month-old baby, told AFP.