Are Sumo Wrestlers Considered Good Luck in Japan?

A good cry can be beneficial for the soul. That's the gist of the annual Naki Zumo festival in Japan, a tradition that goes back 400 years. Every year, sumo wrestlers (also known as rikishi) assemble at temples and shrines, while parents bring them their babies so that they can be frightened to tears. The competition is inspired by the Japanese proverb “naku ko wa sodatsu,” which loosely translates to “crying babies grow fast.” So, sumo wrestlers are good luck for babies, at least.

Here's how it works: A sumo referee raises the toddlers in the air and tries to get the babies to cry, imploring them to “nake, nake” (“cry, cry”). If this fails, the referee dons a devil mask and shouts to scare the kids into wailing. The winner is the baby who cries the longest and hardest. All those who sob are ostensibly rewarded with good health and a defense against evil spirits.

More on the Japanese crying festival:

  • Babies between the ages of 6 months and 18 months can take part in the festival.

  • Parents usually try to hush crying babies, but on this day they may pay up to $100 USD to get them to weep.

  • At the festival, the sumo wrestlers dress in traditional mawashi, the loin cloth that is worn during training and competitions.

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More Info: Time

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