Most people know what it is like to have a good old cry and to get the feeling of having a huge weight removed from their shoulders.
A new social phenomenon, dubbed “rui-katsu” (tear-seeking), is spreading across Japan as adults gather together to watch tear-jerking movies and cry in public as a way of releasing stress.
Five people clutching handkerchiefs sat before a blank screen in a room in Atsuta Ward, Nagoya, on a recent evening.
Most of them are regular participants at this kind of event.
“I am ready to bawl my eyes out,” one of the participants joked.
The lights were dimmed and a documentary on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 was played, featuring a mud-spattered dog and a person without arms or legs in a disaster area.
Later in the documentary, with music by famed singer Kazumasa Oda playing in the background, some in the audience were clearly fighting back tears as they watched heartwarming scenes featuring a cat and family interactions.
This rui-katsu session was hosted by 31-year-old counselor Yuka Muroi, who specializes in therapy for couples.
He has seen how people who bottle up stress can eventually find their lives devoid of any kind of emotion.
Muroi found out that Hiroki Terai, who came up with the idea of holding ceremonies for couples who have divorced, started rui-katsu sessions in Tokyo.
Seeing how couples tend to part on better terms following a good cry during the divorce ceremony made Terai realize the power of crying and he has since spread the idea around Tokyo by word-of-mouth.
“I think it’s a good way to prevent stress from building up,” agreed Muroi.
He studied the method and introduced the practice in Nagoya in April.
Most participants are male.
One of them, Toshihiko Ito, 49, is an assistant manager at a large automobile parts manufacturer. He was attending a session for the second time.
“I feel so much better. It’s really great. I’m always so tense at home and of course, in front of my subordinates at work. I find myself getting into a new mental and emotional state (after attending a rui-katsu session),” he added.
Junya Imachi, 28, a self-employed businessman living in Meito Ward, Nagoya, has attended every meeting so far.
“Sometimes I think about my past while I cry. It’s a good opportunity to really look at yourself,” he explained.
But does crying effectively heal emotionally scarred hearts?
According to Yuhei Kayukawa, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at Nagoya Institute of Technology, crying is an extremely important aspect of human behavior.
“People cannot fix their mental health if they bottle up their sadness or refuse to admit it to themselves. Being able to cry without worrying about their public image or appearance is an important step for them to break free from the depression that they may be going through,” he said.
“Especially because hiding one’s anger and sadness is considered a virtue in Japanese culture. As a whole, Japanese are terrible at dealing with stress,” added Kayukawa.
The next rui-katsu event will be held on July 9 at 8 p.m., and the fee to participate is ¥1,000.
For more information, please contact ReLight, a salon run by Muroi, at 050-3638-4151.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published in the daily’s June 14 evening edition.