Dozens of bawling Japanese babies faced off Saturday 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.
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.
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.
|Student sumo wrestlers carry crying babies during the 'Baby-cry Sumo' competition at Tokyo's Sensoji temple on April 30, 2011. Photo: AFP|
"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 sumo" is held at shrines and temples nationwide, to the delight of parents and onlookers.
Shigemi Fuji, chairman of Asakusa Tourism Federation which organised the event, said some people might think it's terrible they make babies cry.
|Sumo wrestler students attempt to cry out babies during the annual 'crying sumo' competition at the Sensoji temple in central Tokyo, 23 April 2005. Photo: AFP|
"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.
A total of 64 babies participated in the ritual, according to the organiser.
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.
|Crying babies are carried by student sumo wrestlers during the 'Baby-cry Sumo' competition at Tokyo's Sensoji temple on April 27, 2008. Photo: AFP|