The Nakizumo Festival: An Event Where Crying Babies Are a Good Thing

Japanese culture - May 9th, 2014

Have you ever wondered just how strong the lungs of a crying baby are? Or are you a new parent looking to let your baby wail and scream in public, cringe-free? Well, this 400-year festival in Japan might be made for you.

The annual Nakizumo festival, held throughout the country at the end of April, is one of Japan’s many odd celebrations. 泣く子は育つ/Naku ko sodatsu is the Japanese saying of the festival, which roughly means “crying babies will grow fast.” Meant to scare off evil spirits and promote health and strength, babies born in the previous year are brought to the festival to participate in the competition.


In a sumo ring-type set up, two sumo wrestlers hold the babies face-to-face while the opposing wrestler attempts to make the baby cry with silly faces, or scary masks as a second choice. The wrestlers scream “nake! nake! nake! (cry! cry! cry!)” as parents, perhaps for the first time, willingly let the baby screaming commence. The first baby to cry is declared the winner, and if both babies begin crying at the same time, the loudest one is the winner.

Check out last year’s video of a ceremony at Sensoji in Asakusa. Action begins at 1:10:

Main Image: Flickr/ J.Salmoral

Video: YouTube/Ronin Dave

Nakizumo festival