The Annual Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival

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Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival

Experience the unique tradition of the Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival, a captivating highlight among the delightful Tokyo Events in April, where adorable infants compete in a playful sumo-inspired crying competition.

The Tradition Behind the Wails

Japan’s annual Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival draws in hundreds of families, with parents eager to register their one-year-olds in a competition that celebrates their tears. In this unique cultural event, the winning baby doesn’t manage to remain quiet. Instead, the trophy goes to the first child to cry.

This unusual festival is rooted in a Japanese proverb, “naku ko wa sodas,” meaning “crying babies grow faster.” The belief resides in a folklore tale that the louder a baby cries, the more gods are heard and will bless them.

The bidding to make babies wail has been an over 400-year-old tradition, taking place in various locations across Japan but being especially popular at Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. The event is arguably one of Tokyo’s most unusual and has drawn significant attention from the foreign press.

How Does Nakizumo Work?

During Nakizumo, professional or student sumo wrestlers carry two participating infants into the sumo ring (dohyo). What ensues is not physical wrestling but rather an emotional showdown. If both babies burst into tears simultaneously, victory is given to whichever bawls loudest or longest.

In cases where contestants prove more resistant, referees or judges wearing a tengu (bird demon) mask step in playfully, trying to induce fear and tears. Families and spectators often chant “Naki! Naki! Naki!” translating as “Cry! Cry! Cry!” to encourage a victory cry from their little ones.

A Celebration for Good Health

Though it might sound peculiar or even cruel from a Western perspective, crying in the Nakizumo Festival context symbolizes good health and the expelling of evil spirits. Parents see participation as highly privileged and even pay around approximately ¥15,000 for their infants to compete. Apart from competing, this entry fee includes an amulet and a small gift.

Whilst belief might be that crying signifies the growth and healthiness of a child, due to its growing popularity amongst Japanese families aspiring for healthy children, only roughly one hundred spots are allocated each year through a lottery system. This secured spot signifies more than just participation; it is considered a blessing for one’s child, making this cultural event one more unique spectacle garnering attention all over Japan.

Event Schedule & Location Details

The Nakizumo Festival takes place throughout Japan annually, specifically during or around May 5th, to coincide with Children’s Day at the end of the Golden Week holiday.

The event at Sensoji Temple starts the showdown twice in rounds held behind the main shrine building — first at 11:10 am continuing with round two at 2:20 pm. Visitors can reach Sensoji via a four-minute walk from Asakusa Station.

With each passing year, hundreds continue to flock towards this less conventional festival, looking forward not only to blessing their children but also immersing themselves deeper into an age-old Japanese tradition.

Discover the charming juxtaposition of the Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival, where infants compete in joyful tears alongside the exhilarating Waseda Regatta, creating a delightful fusion of tradition and sporting excitement.

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