Sumo wrestlers make babies cry to ward off evil in front of laughing crowd

This is the bizarre moment hulking sumo wrestlers deliberately try to make babies wail – while a referee wearing a scary mask shouts: "Cry, cry, cry!"

The unsettling video is the product of a bizarre 400-year-old tradition in Japan and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

The theory behind the bizarre ‘crying sumo’ or Nakizumo festival goes on the idea that a good, long bawl can bring them good health and fortune.

Wrestlers at the Sensoji temple in Tokyo can be seen each picking a tiny tot up in the arms, dressed in the traditional attire of giant underpants.

They then climb onto a stage while they try desperately to antagonise the little ones so they bawl their eyes out.

Some burst out screaming instantly, while others seem more mellow.

While no violence is used, a referee wearing a menacing devil mask intervenes if a child refuses to cry cry.

Sometimes it has the opposite effect, and the little ones grin in confusion at the red veil.

The judge might also growl and make faces while ordering them to ‘nake, nake’, which means ‘cry’ in Japanese.

The sumo wrestlers hold the babies aloft

Parents and crowds of onlookers can be seen excitedly cheering and clapping from a distance while the tots get more and more distressed.

In some cultures, the first baby to cry is considered the winner, while in others, the crown goes to the last baby to cry.

While the sound of a child’s crying can be incredibly traumatic, people believe the louder the cry, the more they are protected.

Parents pay up to £70 so their children, who are all less than one, can take part.

The annual festival has been held at various temples and shrines for the past four centuries.

The video concludes with the babies posing for photographs while standing with their parents on podiums.

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