(Tokyo) Dozens of babies, their faces contorted with tears, competed on Saturday in a traditional Japanese ritual called “crying sumo” believed to bring good health to children and made a comeback for the first time after four years of pandemic.

Accompanied by their parents, toddlers wearing the traditional sumo wrestling ceremonial apron competed on the dohyo at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.

But here, there is no question of getting out of the arena. The winner will be the one who breaks down in tears first.

To encourage them, employees roam around them, wearing “oni” demon masks, hoping to scare them away.

“We can know a baby’s health by listening to the way he cries,” Hisae Watanabe, mother of an eight-month-old baby, told AFP. “Today she may be nervous and not cry much, but I want to hear her healthy crying.”

Crying Sumo is held at shrines and temples across Japan, and attracts large numbers of spectators.

Shigemi Fuji, president of the Asakusa Tourism Federation — organizer of the event — admits that some people might think it’s terrible to make babies cry on purpose.

“But in Japan, we believe that babies who cry loudly also grow up healthy,” he said.

A total of 64 babies took part in the ritual, the organizer said.

The rules vary from region to region: in some places parents hope their child is the first to cry, in others the first to cry is the loser.