Saturday, May 03, 2008

Nakizumo, Crying Sumo

In Japan there are all sorts of versions of this:

The example above is called nakizumo, crying sumo. Here the referee is encouraging (frightening the living shit out of?) the babies, but sometimes they have versions (also called konaki zumo) where two sumo wrestlers each hold a child and turn them to suddenly face each other, thus making them yowl. The one with the loudest cry wins.

Babies are supposed to cry, evidently. I remember when J was just born my mother-in-law would say the longer a baby cried the stronger his lungs would become. I imagined her kids had some monster lung capacity to go with their diaper rash, hunger pangs and lonliness. I smiled and changed my kid's nappies reminding myself my mother-in-law said a lot of things. Believe me, I could write a book.

However, having a baby belt out a good one is an auspicious event. Well, kinda. I think I can speak for everyone when I say a toddler throwing a tantrum in the check out isle is far from auspicious. But when you consider that these festivals are hundreds upon hundreds of years old--back when a big cry was a simple way to determine a healthy, strong baby that would eventually grow into a healthy, strong adult, then it totally makes sense.

Every summer they have a big three-day festival in my town. Children aged one, two and three are allowed to participate in all sorts of fancy ways--prayers, parades, dances. Man, you should see their adorable little outfits (note to self: must scan old pictures).

The first event of the the festival (and only done once when the child is one) is called kami korogashi, or god rolling. The priests line up across from one another, two to a tatami mat, and are handed a child. They then chant prayers as they roll the child around and around until it starts to howl. Everyone laughs and claps and celebrates the wee one's fine pair of lungs as well as his continuing health and good fortune. It's a great photo-op, I tell ya.

I just remembered there is a Japanese saying, naku ko wa sodatsu, a child who cries grows/thrives. There is also one that goes, neru ko wa sodatsu, a child who sleeps a lot grows/thrives.

I've since gotten used to the tradition, but I must admit I was at first worried about the poor child's mental state.

Then I saw this!

Cracks me up.


Frank Baron said...

Now we here in the Great White North have a pastime wherein we stand on logs which are floating in water and roll them with our feet. (Okay, not all of us, just lumberjacks but that's not the point.)

Rolling babies certainly seems a lot safer. At least from the rollERs perspective. Not to mention a heck of a lot of fun.

Now to convince the next Mom I see with a baby....

Mary Witzl said...

I feel so mean: that cracks ME up too, and I would almost like to dress up as an oni and scare a few babies myself.

At our kids' nursery school, some of the teachers LOVED frightening kids and made a regular habit of it. Our kids were scared silly of something called 'Nezumi Obaasan' that was purported to live in the closets where their naptime futons were kept. In fact, it was just a way to keep them from playing in the closets, but they bought it hook, line and sinker. I could always get them to shut up by threatening them with Nezumi Obaasan. Pretty useful...

Ello said...

It must be an Asian thing because I love scaring the crap out of my kids. It makes me laugh every single time! Yeah I am so mean! This kills me! I'm going to have steal these videos for my blog! Thanks Kappa!

Kappa no He said...

Now Frank, you must remember, those baby-things can come loaded on either or both ends...very dangerous indeed!

Mary, I wonder if all yochiens/hoikuens do that here? J's had a Obake Closet. You can just imagine what the poor kids imagine!

Ello, I still scare my twelve-year old. Last night I hid behind a cutain for twenty minutes to get the timing juuuust right. He nearly peed his pants, as did I from laughing so hard.

Kinu No Michi said...

Thanks for the article, I linked to it in my post about Nakizumo. Great to hear about some more odd customs too, I'd never heard about rolling babies!