Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu describes the "storytelling teahouse" as any safe place in which students can express themselves by sharing their private thoughts.

"It's possible to tell things to perfect strangers that one might never tell one's closest friends," says Murphy-Shigematsu, because guests treat each other with respect. It is a place where, "I tell you my story. You listen to my story. You tell me your story. I listen to your story."

The 68-year-old academic drew inspiration for this safe space from the teahouses built during Japan's Kamakura Period (1185-1333). The teahouses, built by Zen Buddhist monks to practice sadō (tea ceremony), would welcome samurai who would have to remove their swords to get through the small, low entrance. Stripped of sword and title, "everyone is equal in the tearoom," Murphy-Shigematsu explains.