This event, which took place behind Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, was one of those ‘Only in Japan’ occasions and featured a couple of sumo wrestlers holding a baby each with the winner being the first one (the baby, not the wrestler) to cry. This will of course sound very weird to some and lets be honest, it is isn’t it?! The Japanese thinking is that the more babies cry, the healthier they grow up. Basically, its supposed to assure them of a long and healthy life and not at all traumatise them!
I first remember becoming aware of this contest on the BBC sports comedy panel show ‘They think it’s all over!’ in the 1990’s where the team captain (and Leicester’s favourite son) Gary Lineker actually knew about it from his time spent in Japan in the early 90’s. I had never been aware of the event happening until a month ago when I saw it advertised in a listings magazine. So together with Gideon and our mutual friend Will (who I hadn’t seen since the end of 2004) we went to this quirky event on April 25th. We didn’t watch the whole afternoons events unfold as it became a bit tedious after a while (much like sumo itself!) but all in all it was an interesting experience.
Nakizumo started off with some long and boring official announcement by someone or another before all the mothers (and one father!) brought their competing babies on stage in two groups before we all saw what we had came to see. There were three sumo wrestlers alternating and they just took a baby from each group and then jiggled them about a bit until they cried. This didn’t always take so long but there was a back-up plan which involved the four judges (or whoever they were) getting up off their seat in the corner of the ring and putting on a supposedly scary mask to try ensure that the babies did cry.