The audience started sniffling well before the end of the first video, a Thai life-insurance commercial titled “Silence of Love,” which revolves around a teenage girl and her deaf father. By the ad’s conclusion, the sniffling had given way to open weeping. Over the next 40 minutes, as a series of ever sadder selections played—animated shorts, movie clips, YouTube memorials for pet cats—the sobs only grew louder.
It was a Saturday night in February, and the people crammed into a small conference room at a mental-health center in northern Tokyo had come for an evening of communal rui-katsu, or “tear seeking.” Hidefumi Yoshida, who was leading the free event, explained that crying clears the mind and reduces stress. “Whether you’ve had a tough time at work, or trouble with a diet, or relationship problems, crying can help you reset,” he told the 20 men and women around me, who ranged from college students to middle-aged office workers.
The first such crying event in Tokyo was organized in 2013 by Hiroki Terai, a former salesman who had previously launched a successful business conducting cathartic (though unofficial) divorce ceremonies. After watching his clients shed tears and then leave on better terms, he got the idea to start hosting rui-katsu events. “I realized that people cannot cry unless they make a conscious effort,” he told the newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.