Watching sumo wrestlers trying to make babies cry might seem like an odd pastime, but in Asakusa’s Sensoji it’s an age-old tradition. The 400-year-old event takes place at a few different temples and shrines across Japan but this is by far the most popular.
The babies are a year old and the challenge is to see which cries first — becoming the winner. If they cry at the same time, the winner is determined by who cries the loudest and if a baby laughs, an ogre-mask-clad priest will often step in to encourage some tears.
Parents pay around ¥15,000 to have their babies participate, and it’s quite a privileged opportunity as the tears encourage good health and drive away any evil spirits. This is the root behind the popular Japanese saying that a crying baby grows faster (although we assume this is little comfort to tired parents at 2 a.m.).
There are two competitions: one held at 11:10 a.m. and one at 2:25 p.m. so don’t worry if you can’t make the earlier one. This year, the babies will be held by their parents and not the sumo wrestlers.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.