Monday, May 3, 2010

Culture shock

I love observing and learning about other cultures. I might be too chicken to actually totally submerge myself in them, but I'll watch and respect as long as I don't have to eat anything I would normally assault with a full can of bug spray (hence my refusal to eat crickets on a kebab in Thailand).

One of the cultures that both delights and baffles me is that of Japan. I'm fascinated by their contradictions; the quietness and respect for others right along side the loudness and vivacity of the Harajuku and Gyaru fashion trends. But something I saw this week truly baffled me so much that I just had to share it.

On the 25th of April this year a competition with a 400 year history was held at a temple in Tokyo. The contest is considered an opportunity to pray for babies' health – so how would you expect they did this? But bowing their heads silently? No. Chanting rhythmically as loud as they could? Also no. This is a competition after all, there needs to be something measurable... how about how fast can a Sumo wrestler make a baby cry? You think I'm joking, but I'm not.

The Konaki Sumo (crying Sumo) requires two Sumo wrestlers to each hold a baby and face each other and wait to see whose infant cries first (if they cry at the same time, the louder baby wins). They're helped along by a local priest who waves, shouts and holds up scary looking masks, but the children are never physically harmed.

For more photos see here

To me, in my closeted Western life, this is just bizarre! But according to the Japanese a crying baby grows faster and therefore healthier, plus the louder the infant cries the more the gods have blessed it. When you take it from their point of view I suppose it makes sense. It just shows you how differently we are all raised from one culture to another... which brings me to my next “discovery” of sorts – a documentary.

Before I get you too excited, I cannot find ANY details on the Australian release dates for this movie, but it launches in America (if you happen to be there) on May 7th. Known as Babies – The Movie, this documentary follows four babies from around the world; Ponijao from Namibia, Mari from Japan, Bayar from Mongolia and Hattie from America “from first breath to first steps”. Watch the trailer (I've watched it at least a dozen times now) and you won't be disappointed! I'm not sure what I'd do if a goat started drinking Tricky's bath water... 


  1. That kid should have grabbed the goat by the horns... how funny! Have you found out when / if it comes out in Australia? x Rach

  2. didn't they do that baby following thing in the "UP" series? and then checking in with them all at 7 year increments?

  3. Similar, Moose. The Up Series were all from the same cultural background whereas this is comparing east v west / first world v third world. I think Tricky would like to balance things on his head and ride motorbikes though :)


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