In Japan, more than a hundred babies faced off in the traditional “crying sumo” ring celebration. The annual ceremony is held all over Japan to bring these babies good health and prosperity. One of the biggest crying sumo ceremonies is held at the Kame Kamegaike Hachimangu shrine in Sagamihara, just west of Tokyo. The ceremony simply involves holding two babies in full sumo gear together as they bawl their eyes out. In most cases, these little infants are crying even before they enter the ring.
While the babies that ‘enter’ the ring don’t actually wrestle, they are encouraged to cry by their fathers. While there is the grand ceremony at the shrine, crying sumo is held in different temples all over Japan, much to the delight of the mini-sumo parents and the many onlookers that attend the ceremony. According to a priest, the cries of the babies are believed to drive out demons and other evil spirits and protect the children from trouble in the future.
The crying sumo ceremony can be traced back up to 400 years ago. The rules of the ceremony differ from region to region. In some regions, the first baby to cry is the winner of the match, while in some regions it is the baby the does not cry first to be declared the victor. In the Sagamihara shrine, the babies are accompanied by both parents and grandparents and are taken before a Shinto altar and purified by a priest. After the blessing, pairs of babies are then taken to the sumo ring for their “match”.