You may have heard before about the “karoshi” phenomenon that is widespread in Japan, and it means death from excessive stress and psychological pressure. This phenomenon affects workers who work more than 80 hours a week without the ability to complain or leave work, and their bodies do not bear this burden for a long time. 1).
Unloading energy, anger, and crying are relatively easy ways to get rid of these pressures. Some studies have indicated that Dr. William Frey, a biochemist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who is called the “tears expert”; Crying reduces the hormones secreted in the body as a result of stress and has negative effects on the heart and blood circulation (2). But the Japanese, it seems, do not cry. Rather, suppressing feelings is a culture rooted in the awareness and conscience of the Japanese people.
Why don’t Japan cry?
When the Japanese professor of behavioral sciences, Masaaki Yuki, traveled to the United States of America, he was amazed – as he put it – by the facial expressions that his American students write in e-mails next to their words, as they often end their words with a smiling, sad or laughing face, according to their feelings in the dialogue.
These explicit expressions of feelings through facial features are not widespread in Japan, which prompted Masaki to try to understand the difference between the ability of the people of Japan to express their feelings through their features, and the same ability in other cultures, especially American and European.
In a study published in 2007 in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology” under the title: “Are the windows of the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in the use of the eyes and mouth as indicators of emotion recognition in Japan and the United States,” Masaki and his research team tried to understand this difference, When he realized that the American people are more open to showing feelings on facial expressions, unlike the Japanese people who do not show much emotion in front of others (3).
The researchers also found in this study that Japanese people determine the feelings of others according to their eyes, unlike Americans who tend to define the feelings of those they deal with through their mouth expressions, and this may appear in the difference between electronic facial expressions that emanated from American culture and that focus on changing the shape of Only the mouth, and among the Japanese animation embodiment of the eyes are wide and full of emotion.
However, it is noticeable and worth noting that, unlike what Japanese animated films and stories show in terms of excessive expression of feelings and crying sometimes, the Japanese, in fact, do not tend to express their feelings in public in the first place (3).
“A man does not cry” is a word you may have heard in some Arab societies, when parents try to raise their male children to be firm and tough, but in Japan it is different. Crying and showing feelings to everyone, even women, is a sign of weakness, and the most important thing is that if someone cries in a public place Or among a group of his colleagues – from the point of view of Japanese culture – he makes them feel uncomfortable and disturbs the harmony in the place.
This culture is passed on by the Japanese people from one generation to the next, so that children in public places find it difficult to express their feelings, and not cry in front of others, as happens in other cultures, and the reason behind this is an ancient culture called the “Wa” culture, which It means “harmony”.
The “Wa” culture has taken root in Japan since the early years of the formation of that civilization, and its aim is harmony and harmony between members of society in any council, and the individual does not care about himself only, but rather cares about the entire community, and does not prefer himself over the group, so if you are sad in A place where a group of people spend an ordinary day, so do not cry in front of them so as not to disturb this harmony and harmony, which is what made the Japanese people see crying as something that disturbs the peace of society and causes tension to others.
Because of this culture, Japanese society expects people to hide their true feelings and opinions in many circumstances in order to maintain harmony, from facial expressions to crying(4). But after the world realized the importance of crying, and what it brings to the soul of comfort and a sense of liberation, and the spread of psychological studies that confirm the importance of showing and expressing feelings, it was Japan’s turn to learn to cry through a new culture that appeared in Japan in the last ten years, called “rui-katsu”. Or “the pursuit of tears” (5).
Who wipes the tears of Japanese women?
“rui-katsu” or “the pursuit of tears” is a culture that has recently emerged in Japan, and Japan usually uses the word “katsu”, which means “the pursuit” in combination with other words, to express the pursuit of work, love, or any other goal, then the word appeared “rui-katsu” to form what was called at the time “a new fashion in Japan”, as groups began to practice this activity together in order to relieve stress and feel relaxed.
This term appeared for the first time by the Japanese businessman “Hiroki Terai”, whose job at that time was to organize and plan divorce procedures for couples who decided to separate from each other, and Hiroki aimed behind that to reach what he called a “happy divorce”, as A way to psychologically rehabilitate the couple to start a new happy life after separation.
After Hiroki started this activity in 2009, he discovered that the divorce arrangements and parties he was holding for couples to express their pent-up feelings caused large groups of them to back down from the divorce decision, stressing that they became happier after expressing their feelings (6). So, in 2013, businessman Hiroki Terai started a new business just for women, training them to show emotion.
In times of grief, a woman usually wants someone to wipe her tears, bear moments of crying with her and contain her, but in Japanese society this was not an option available to all women who were raised that they should not disturb the harmony of the family and society. Hence, Hiroki decided to create a place where women could cry and express their feelings, in exchange for money. But with time, and in the last few years, it was no longer confined to women only, but some men began shyly to join these therapeutic groups in order to reduce the stress on their souls (7).
Hiroki aims – according to his statements – to create a new concept corresponding to the concept of “Gross National Happiness” or to increase national happiness, which is the concept of “Gross National Tear” or to encourage and enhance national tears, explaining that from his point of view, Japan as a whole would be a much better country if he cried Its people, at that time, the Japanese people will live with less psychological stress and tension, and with greater energy as well (8).
Hidfumi Yoshide… the first crying teacher in Japan
After years of suppressing feelings and holding back tears, it was not easy for the Japanese people to cry and express their feelings clearly, which was noted by “Hedfumi Yoshide”, a former high school teacher in Japan, who calls himself “Namida-sensei” or “teacher of tears.” . Therefore, since 2015, Hedfumi has been touring all over Japan in schools and companies and giving lectures on the importance of crying. He also helps the audience in those lectures to cry through sad songs, or reading from books that contain touching stories or even showing a sad movie to stimulate tears in the eyes of the attendees. (9).
Hedfumi’s work in his school was similar to the specialization of the social worker in our schools. He tells of a student of his who used to come to consult him on personal matters on a regular basis, but he stopped visiting him after the last session between them, during which the student cried and his feelings exploded in front of his teacher, which made him unable to confront him. Hidfumi was so moved by this situation that he traveled around Japan teaching both men and women to cry.
With the help of Hideo Arita, a professor of psychiatry at Toho University College of Medicine, Hedfumi has visited hundreds of venues for lectures and other activities in the past few years to create awareness about the benefits of crying, and most of those lectures and sessions are free (10).
Hedfumi says: “Many studies say that crying strengthens the immune system, and I have tried this myself, as I used to catch colds frequently and quickly, but after my new work in teaching crying and shedding tears with those I know, I rarely get colds” (11).
Certainly, the desire to cry is ingrained in the hearts of the Japanese like the rest of humanity, but the culture of achievement that has colored their lives is what made tears hide behind expressionless faces, and the biggest evidence of this is the annual event that takes place in Tokyo and is called the “crying sumo festival”. Or the Children’s Crying Festival, in which infants compete over who will cry first and who will cry the most, through the appearance of men wrestling and wearing scary masks to terrify the children, and the child who cries first is the winner. This ritual arose due to an ancient conviction among the Japanese people that crying could expel evil spirits, but it is now held for the purpose of following the traditions that have preserved the event for many years (12).
- The world must learn from “karoshi,” Japan’s overwork epidemic — before it’s too late
- Crying: The Mystery of Tears
- Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States
- All About Wa – The Significance of the Kanji 和 in Japanese Language & Culture
- Hiding one’s emotions and feelings (Honne *) keep the harmony safe ?
- Rui-katsu: Group crying for stress relief
- Why Are Japanese Women Paying to Cry with a ‘Handsome’ Man? | Short Film Showcase
- See Why Japanese Women Are Paying to Cry with a ‘Handsome’ Man
- Why are students in Japan being taught to cry
- Tears Teacher
- Crying It Out in Japan
- Japan babies face off in ‘crying sumo’ festival returning after the pandemic