Crying Sumo: Japan's Unique Baby Contest with Wrestlers

In the heart of Japan, an unusual and culturally significant event takes place annually, capturing the fascination of locals and tourists alike. It's called "Naki Sumo" or "Crying Sumo," a unique contest where sumo wrestlers and tiny contenders come together in a tradition steeped in history and cultural beliefs.

The Tradition of Crying Sumo

Historical Roots and Cultural Significance

The tradition of Crying Sumo dates back several centuries, rooted in the belief that the crying of babies can ward off evil spirits and bring about good health. The event is typically held at Shinto shrines across Japan, with the most famous being held at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.

The Contest Format

In the Crying Sumo contest, sumo wrestlers, known for their immense size and strength, hold babies, usually around six months to one year old. The goal is simple yet peculiar: to make the baby cry. A referee, often dressed in traditional garb, oversees the contest. The baby who cries first or the loudest is declared the winner, amidst cheers and laughter from the audience.

The Symbolism and Beliefs

Health and Well-being

The underlying belief is that crying ensures the baby's good health. It is based on an old Japanese saying, "naku ko wa sodatsu," which translates to "crying children grow up healthy." The loud cries are thought to be a sign of the child's robust lung capacity and vitality.

Spiritual Protection

Additionally, the crying is believed to ward off evil spirits. In Japanese culture, loud noises are traditionally associated with scaring away malevolent forces. Hence, the baby's cries during the event are seen as a form of spiritual protection.

Modern Perspectives and Global Interest

Cultural Attraction

While the tradition might seem unconventional to outsiders, it continues to be a popular cultural attraction. Tourists and locals flock to these events, drawn by the unique blend of traditional sumo culture and the unusual competition involving infants.

Cultural Sensitivity and Adaptation

In recent years, the tradition has adapted to modern sensibilities. Organizers ensure the safety and comfort of the babies, with parents close at hand. The sumo wrestlers, despite their intimidating appearance, are known to be incredibly gentle with the babies.

Final Thoughts

The Crying Sumo contest is a fascinating blend of cultural tradition, belief, and entertainment. It offers a glimpse into the unique aspects of Japanese culture, where even the cries of a child are celebrated and imbued with deep meaning. As Japan continues to balance tradition with modernity, events like the Crying Sumo remain a testament to the enduring appeal of cultural rituals that have withstood the test of time.