Nakizumo Festival: A Contest to Make Babies Cry

By Staff Writer
May 10, 2024
Japanese festivals are usually lively and bustling. But at the Nakizumo Festival, it may be even more so as babies' shrill cries echo through the air. Every year, parents with six-month-to-two-year-olds, dressed in fancy costumes, bring their children to the Nakizumo Festival held across Japan to wish their babies a long and healthy life.

In this festival, babies compete against each other, and the first baby who cries wins. If the opposing babies cry at the same time, the one who cries louder and harder would be crowned the winner.
The dohyo (ring) where sumo takes place
Sumo wrestlers carry the babies into the dohyo (ring) and hold them gently throughout the match.
The sumo referee says “nake! nake!” which means cry, taunting babies to induce tears.
If the babies do not cry, the tengu (bird demon) masks will appear and scare babies to tears.
Two people wearing the tengu (bird demon) masks
Nakizumo Festival is one of the many traditional Japanese events, and it goes back over 400 years.
The event held at Ikiko Shrine in Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture, is one of the nation's intangible folklore cultural assets.
There is an old which says “naku ko wa sodatsu,” meaning babies who cry grow up strong and healthy.
This festival also serves to drive away evil spirits. Parents usually pay around 15,000 yen to have their babies participate in this event with these wishes.

This festival is often held at a shrine, where many parents and grandparents gather, creating a lively atmosphere.
The biggest and most famous festival is held at Asakusa’s Sensoji, but the events are also held in other parts of Japan, allowing you to enjoy them wherever you like.
Sensoji Temple with cherry blossoms in full bloom
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