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Japan's 'crying baby sumo' festival returns after pandemic

By Agence France-Presse Published Apr 24, 2023 1:22 pm

Dozens of bawling Japanese babies faced off in a traditional "crying sumo" ritual believed to bring the infants good health, which returned for the first time in four years after the pandemic on Saturday, April 23.

Pairs of toddlers wearing ceremonial sumo aprons were held up by their parents and faced each other in the sumo ring at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.

Children held by their parents stand before their "Baby-cry Sumo" match.

Staff wearing "oni" demon masks tried to make the babies cry, with the first to bawl declared the winner by a sumo referee in an elaborate traditional uniform holding a wooden fan used to signal victory.

"We can tell a baby's health condition 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, mother of an eight-month-old, told AFP.

The "crying baby sumo" festival resumed for the first time in four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The "crying sumo" is held at shrines and temples nationwide, to the delight of parents and onlookers.

Shigemi Fuji, chairman of Asakusa Tourism Federation, which organized the event, said some people might think it's terrible they make babies cry.

"But in Japan, we believe babies who cry powerfully also grow up healthily. This kind of event takes place in many places in Japan," he said.

The recently concluded festival took place at the Sensoji temple in Tokyo.

A total of 64 babies participated in the ritual, according to the organizer.

The rules vary from region to region—in some places parents want their offspring to be the first to cry, in others the first to weep is the loser. (AFP)