Naki-sumo or Nakizumo, not sure which is correct because I've seen both spellings. I've heard about this from my friend, Julie and Japanese sensei has talked about it but yesterday I got to see it with my own eyes. I took a lot more pictures and posted them here in my Shutterly album, and included a video at the bottom of this post.
Naki Sumo has been a tradition on this stage for the last 18 years; yesterday was the 19th. It's a prayer for the good health of children at Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, and if you want your infant to participate it'll only cost ¥10,000, or about $100 USD. The babies were all born in 2008 and are held by college-aged sumo wrestlers. Believe it or not they have a match to see who will cry first. If both babies cry at the same time, then the one that cries loudest wins.
The sumo wrestlers hold the babies, hold them up in the air, etc to try to get them to cry, and to see how loud they'll cry. If they don't start with just the sumo, one of the four men sitting in the corners will come up with masks or the big glasses with fake nose and mustache. A Japanese proverb says that 'crying babies grow fast' and believe that the louder an infant cries then more gods have blessed it. More information about it can be found here if you're interested in learning more about it. The official website is here, and I've already done the "Google Translate" thing, so it's in English.
There were four Germans standing to my left and a bunch of Japanese photographers to my right. The four of them live here, and until one of them said that I assumed they were visiting. Anyway, one of them translated what was being said and that was very helpful. She'd translate it into German for her husband and friends and then English for me. Impressive. You'll be able to hear her a little bit in the videos. The older man to my right was very kind and sweet even though we couldn't understand a word the other was saying. He pointed to my telephoto lens and was saying something about it, then when I looked at his I realized we had the same one. We also had the same camera, only different names. Mine is the Canon Digital Rebel and his was the Kiss. I puckered up and did the "smooch" sound and he laughed...so did his buddy next to him. I don't think they were making fun of me though, because he tried repeating "Kiss" and "Rebel;" it was cute and he was really trying.
Once things got started and people were being introduced he got really excited when one man came on stage. He kept saying "Kabuki, kabuki" and people's cameras were clicking a lot more at that point. At the time the only thing I could think of was that this man is an actor in the Kabuki Theater. A statue near by is of a famous Kabuki actor who was famous for being a very strong child. So my guess is that he's the representative since the venue is set up under the watchful eye of the statue.
The judge, the man in purple and gold would yell "Nake, nake, nake," which means "Cry, cry, cry," and is prounced "Nah-kay." In one picture I took you can see him holding his hand up to his year while yelling. He would say it so fast though and I couldn't help but laugh. Some babies were sleeping, some started crying as soon as their mothers handed them off and one even laughed. I'm not sure if I got it on video or not, but either the judge or one of the men with the mask said, "This baby is laughing, not crying." My German friend let me know as soon as the crowd had finished laughing.
If you decide to go next year, try to get there at least an hour early to reserve your spot. Family members are the only ones in seats, and we were standing behind a waist high barricade. There were at least four or five rows of people behind me. It's set up behind the temple, so don't worry when you don't see anything in the main area out front.
I guess kids in Japan can be terrified of both sumo wrestlers and Santa Claus!
1 month ago