Thursday, February 08, 2007
Crying Baby Competition
It's always a delight to see a grown man yell at an infant until, frightened and confused, it bursts into tears. At this traditional 'konaki' (crying) sumo festival pairs of babies under one year old are pitted against each other. The babies are placed facing each other and the temple priest then stands between them and shouts and waves at them until one child cries. Surprisingly this is one occasion when it pays to be a cry baby - for the child who cries first (or loudest if the poor little things burst into tears simultaneously) is proclaimed the winner of the bout! The delighted parents then hoist the distressed child aloft to face another trauma - a battery of camera flashes.
Of course there is always the odd child who refuses to play by the rules and confounds everyone by either falling asleep or giggling. Based on the old Japanese proverb that 'crying babies grow fast', the louder the child wails, the more the gods are thought to have blessed the child with good health. This extraordinary ritual has a history of at least 400 years and is thought to have originated as a service to honour a child priest who lived at the temple long ago