Nakizumo Festival – Initiating a Healthy Cry in a Baby

Now, this might sound seriously insane but it is true that the Japanese believe in a weird rite entailing a little child to cry. A 400-year old festival, the Nakizumo festival is mostly based on the notion that a “wail” welcomes the good health of a baby. This unusual rite strictly demands novice sumo wrestlers to take charge of little ones in order to make the latter cry. The sumo wrestlers usually make annoying faces and sometimes growl at the babies in order to make them cry. Though no harm is caused during the process, the Nakizumo rituals may apparently seem cruel. Under the customs, a competition is held between little ones; and the baby who cries first, receives a prize.

What happens when a couple of babies start wailing? It becomes difficult for the judges to decide on the winner; but in general the one that cries the loudest is being presented a prize. However, things don’t always tend to go as predicted; yes, in some cases the babies start laughing instead of showing discomfort or anger. Some babies even start staring at the sumo wrestlers in sheer disgust; as if they are too displeased with the entire process.

Image Courtesy:

Image Courtesy:

Surprisingly, the Nakizumo crying baby festival in Tokyo also features anxious parents waiting or praying amidst the crowd while their children are being harassed by the wrestlers. Sometimes these parents pray that their little ones come out as winners. The festival is held every year at the Senso-ji temple where young sumo wrestlers stand inside a ring and try to compete with each other in the contest. While they try hard to initiate the first wail in a baby, a referee continuously watches the babies and often yells “nake nake nake”; meaning cry, cry, cry.

The festival is mostly conducted throughout Japan and some say that the Nakizumo festival has been in practice for as long as 400 years in Asakusa. The young sumo wrestlers look really cute while they give in their best efforts to initiate the first wail of a baby. While some throw the babies into the air others make faces or try to play with the little ones; only to make thing worse for babies. According to the Japanese rites, the harder they cry, the better it is for them. When the sumo wrestlers fail to make little babies cry, the referee wears a demonic mask to scare the latter; only to make the crowd burst out in laughter.


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