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Inside For-Profit Japanese Crying Sessions

Dec 10, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Darryl Thoms

Hiroki Terai, a successful Japanese businessman and author, was conducting research for a book about the country’s rising divorce rate when he came to a startling conclusion. “He found that [many] Japanese women who were initiating divorces never got over the divorce,” the filmmaker Darryl Thoms told The Atlantic. As Terai explained to Thoms, “the whole legal and practical process overwhelmed people so much that they didn’t have a chance to emotionally deal with it—and they never got around to crying.”

Ever the entrepreneur, Terai saw an opportunity. “The business started to initially help women cry after that life-changing event,” said Thoms. “After that, Terai thought that perhaps more people could benefit from crying.”

Terai’s Tokyo-based company, Ikemeso Danshi—which roughly translates to “Handsome Weeping Boys”—provides cry-therapy services for those seeking a catharsis they feel unable to express in daily life. “He is selling the elation and lightness that is felt after a cry, similar to how people will go to the cinema for a tearjerker,” explained Thoms. Japanese companies often hire Terai’s team to make staff cry.

Thoms gained Terai’s trust after a few meetings with the businessman. Eventually, Thoms was able to secure permission to film a crying session. In his short documentary Crying with the Handsome Man, the session leader, known as the “tear courier,” induces tears among a group of Japanese women by showing them an emotional film. When the film is over and the waterworks have subsided, the women say they feel calmer.

“In Japan, people do not usually express their emotions,” says the tear courier in the film. In fact, Japanese are among the least likely of all nationalities to cry, according to a poll conducted by the International Study on Adult Crying. (Of the 37 nationalities polled, Americans were the most likely to shed tears.)

Thoms’s intention with the film is “to give some serious insight into Japanese society and the evolution of modern societies in general,” he said. “I’m interested in the modern approach of an instant fix—that basically any problem can be alleviated by commerce.”

Are crying sessions a uniquely Japanese phenomenon? Thoms doesn’t think so. “In other cultures, with more virtual rather than [interpersonal] relationships, I think there will be an increasing need for this service,” he said.

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Author: Emily Buder

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A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.