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Crying Baby Festival

Sumo students with babes in arms gear up to make them cry.

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

For four centuries, sumo wrestlers in Japan have been making babies cry. On purpose.

It's called the Nakizumo festival, literally translated as "crying sumo," but it's the babies who are supposed to cry. Some call it cruel, but Japanese tradition holds otherwise: Crying wards off evil spirits, and the babies who win the contest will be healthy, safe and strong throughout their lives.

Each year, at Tokyo's Sensoji Temple, babies born in the preceding year compete to cry first or, if there's a tie, cry loudest. Two pairs of competitors, one sumo wrestler and one baby on each side, enter a sumo ring and go for victory. The wrestler's job is to scare the baby by making faces and noises, and the baby's job is to cry. Whichever team gets there first takes the prize.

If the sumo wrestlers aren't cutting it, frightening masks are thrown in the mix.

All the while, tourists and grandparents take pictures, mothers pray for their children's future, and a judge watches closely to determine which competing baby bawls first, yelling "naki, naki, naki!" ("cry, cry, cry!") to speed the process along.

About 100 babies take part in the competition, which happens in April, and thousands come to watch. If the sound of a crying baby makes you cringe, you'll want to skip this one.

Next, more babies (but no wrestlers) ...

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