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HIROSHIMA

Babies set to tear up the ring

by Mads Berthelsen

Staff Writer

While the grown-up sumo wrestlers prepare for the upcoming grand sumo tournament in Tokyo (starting May 6), a somewhat younger field of competitors will face off in Hiroshima. Dressed in colorful kimono, the contestants will compete in speed and stamina in the noble sport of crying.

The event is called naki-zumo, which translates as the “crying baby sumo,” and the rules are simple: Two toddlers are placed on pillows facing each other. A sumo referee will then start to taunt the babies, trying to persuade them to shed tears by ordering them to “nake, nake” (“cry, cry”). If this doesn’t do the job, the referee will pull out his devil mask and try to give the kids a fright. The winner is the toddler who cries the longest and hardest.

The competition, a Japanese tradition dating back 400 years, is inspired by the Japanese proverb, “naku ko wa sodatsu” (loosely translated as “crying babies grow fast” in English). While parents may think the screams of a child are shortening their own lives, the intention of this tournament is to encourage the healthy growth of the babies. Another aim of the tradition is to scare away evil spirits.

The crying baby tournament will take place at Gokoku Shrine in Hiroshima on May 5, which is Children’s Day in Japan. Families with babies who are between the ages of 6 months and 18 months are welcome to join.

Naki-zumo (crying baby sumo) will be held at Gokoku Shrine at 2-21 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, on May 5 (from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). To enter the competition is ¥5,000, and it is free to watch. For more information, call (08) 2221-5590.