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Japan’s 400-Year-Old Naki Sumo Is A Crying Contest For Babies And The Weirdest Thing You’ve Ever Seen

Maria del Carmen Calatrava Moreno

What makes your baby cry? Wet diaper? No nap? An incredibly large man in a tiny loincloth chanting, “Cry! Cry! Cry!” in their face? If it’s the latter, you’re probably at the Naki Sumo Baby Crying Festival.

For more than 400 years this ritual has taken place at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. And what’s the rationale behind getting these kids to do the opposite of what you spend most of your waking life to get them not to do? The whole practice is based on the Japanese proverb, “Naku ko wa sodatsu,” which translates to “Crying babies grow fat.” You know who appreciates fat? Sumo wrestlers.

Parents come from all over to hand off their babies to the humongous wrestlers because crying is thought to give kids a long, healthy life and ward off any demons in the area (except for the red-faced one they’re holding in their arms.) But there’s also a more practical consideration: what do you think happens after all that screaming? That’s right — sleeping babies. Forget about toilets with laser-targeted warm water cleaning jets; this is a Japanese innovation that should be imported immediately.