The May 1 front-page photo of the annual “Baby-cry sumo” event at Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple is what I had been fearing to see since the new year started: culturally sanctioned child-abuse splashed on the front page like a celebration.
The photo shows young sumo acolytes abusing babies — and being encouraged to abuse them by a priest — in the mistaken belief that it is all in good fun to deliberately shake babies until they cry. The first to cry, or the loudest cry, is deemed fortuitous for that infant’s future.
It is somewhat like watching Michael Jackson dangle his infant outside a hotel window (in Berlin, 2002). Shocking!
On April 28 we learned that the Japanese government is considering signing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Plan to join Hague pact on custody due in May“), which will be a great advance in this country regarding the rights of children and divorced parents. But with social customs like baby-cry sumo, or the terrorism of the mamemaki bean-throwing ritual (Feb. 3), so embedded in the culture, one sees the struggle faced by children’s rights in this culture. Parents’ willingness to negligently relinquish their baby for this kind of endangerment also has to be overcome.
I worry that critical thinking alone won’t do it. What we need is someone to challenge customs like these in the courts.
I would very much like to see Japan Times writer Debito Arudou tackle these abominations with the zeal that he does his other causes.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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