Crying is serious business for ‘tear couriers’ in emotionally-repressed Japan

Today's expression: Latch onto
Explore more: Lesson #115
December 27, 2018:

Japanese entrepreneurs have started crying clubs, where men and women get together to watch sad movies and listen to sad songs. The purpose is to induce tears, and to get all the emotional benefits of crying in the emotionally reserved country. One businessman even offers "handsome men" to dab the tears of crying ladies in his group. Plus, learn the phrasal verb "latch onto."

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Crying is big business in emotionally-repressed Japan

Hi everyone welcome back, this is Plain English—the podcast for learning English at just the right speed. When I saw this story last weekend, I knew immediately that I had to do an episode on it: Japanese entrepreneurs are hosting facilitated crying sessions. And not just at home, either: some companies are getting in on the action. Just think: a facilitated crying session with all your coworkers.

This is episode number 115, which means you can find the full transcript online at PlainEnglish.com/115. As always, our transcripts include instant translations of all the hard words and phrases from English to Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, French, and Italian. All at PlainEnglish.com/115.

Have you tried MosaLingua yet? I’ll tell you more about it in a few minutes, but they’re a great partner of ours at Plain English and they have a huge variety of English learning resources—videos, audio, articles, and a very large library of English words and phrases, all arranged in a user-friendly, online way. You can try it out for free, but I know you’ll like all the resources they have. Check them out at PlainEnglish.com/learn.


Taking crying seriously in Japan

“Crying once a week is the secret to a stress-free life,” at least that’s according to a headline of an article at the World Economic Forum. And they’re taking this advice seriously in Japan, with rui-katsu sessions: that means, “tear-seeking” sessions. And it seems that more than a few entrepreneurs in Japan are attaching themselves to this trend.

One of these leading businessmen is Hiroki Terai, who started a business called Ikemeso Danshi, which translates roughly to—and this is not a joke—“Handsome Weeping Boys.” Mr. Terai first latched onto this idea when he was researching divorce in Japan. He found that after a divorce, women didn’t have an effective way of coping with the trauma, since they were too overwhelmed by the legal and practical effects of undoing a marriage. Terai started his business as a way to help women cry after getting a divorce.

His business has expanded now and he provides cry-therapy services to people looking for the emotional release that they don’t get in their daily life. Think of it as like getting a massage, only for your emotions. Here’s what they do: a “tear courier”—a courier is like a messenger—a “tear courier” shows a small group of women an emotional film that is intended to get them to cry together in a group. As the tears start to flow—and again, this is written down, it’s not a joke—good looking men dab their tears away. They then talk about it for a bit, and the session is over. The attendees say they feel better afterward.

There was even a documentary film called “Crying With the Handsome Man” that explains this cultural trend in Japan. In the film, one of the tear couriers says that people do not usually express their emotions naturally in Japanese society. A lot of the customers are stressed-out and find that they can’t openly cry at home or at work. So now grown men and women are getting together to watch melancholy films, listen to sad songs, and just have a good cry together.

One unexpected challenge has been finding material that’s universally sad to all people. The attendees range in age from 20 to 80, so what might be really sad for one generation might not do the trick for another generation.

All joking aside, there are some real scientific benefits. Junko Umihara, a professor at the Nippon Medical School, told the Japan Times that “crying is an act of self-defense against accumulating stresses.” By letting your emotions out, you can reduce the accumulated stress. It’s a way of pressing the reset button on some of the accumulated emotions. It also releases chemicals in your brain that relieve both physical and emotional pain. In an acutely stressful situation, it automatically slows down your breathing, which is also a way to calm down.

One of the tears couriers in Japan says that crying is more effective than laughing or even sleeping in reducing stress. An international study of people in over 30 countries found that participants felt better after shedding some tears. Most mental health counselors encourage their patients to cry when they feel the need to.

Many countries have only recently begun to prioritize mental health, and Japan is no exception. Conditions like depression, addiction and anxiety are often never diagnosed and therefore never treated effectively. I read that over 90% of suicides are the result of depression or other mental health conditions—but so many people never get treatment. Japan has historically had one of the highest suicide rates—and that may be because of the stigma associated with depression and mental health. A study from 2016 said that people in Japan are least likely of all people in the world to tell their employer about a mental-health issue.

In 2015, companies in Japan with over 50 employees were required to check the stress levels of their employees—and that’s when they started to host lectures on the power of crying.


This all makes sense to me; I was just a little confused by the “handsome man” part. I wasn’t quite sure what that had to do with the emotional benefits of crying. I guess if you’re a female in Japan and you want your tears dabbed by someone, and you have the choice between an average-looking guy or a handsome man, you’d choose the handsome one, all else equal.

You know we’re coming up on the new year in a couple of days and that means it’s time for new year’s resolutions. If your new year’s resolution is to start your own business, you may have just landed on the perfect idea—bring the weeping clubs to your country. I don’t know how well that will fare in Latin America—something tells me that this idea may not translate quite as well in that part of the world.

Have you been to a crying session before? Have you had your tears dabbed by a handsome man? Let me know—we have a lot of listeners in Japan and I’m dying to know if any of our Plain English listeners have had the pleasure of attending a group crying session before. Send me a note to [email protected] and I’ll share your experiences on a future episode. Not that there’s any stigma here among friends at Plain English, but I’d be happy to relate your comments on a first-name basis only.

Before we get to the phrasal verb for today, I wanted to say thank you to our partner MosaLingua. MosaLingua is an innovative technology company that helps you learn English—actually, they have lots of languages, but English is one of their most popular. Our friends at MosaLingua have helped over six million language learners over the years, and it’s easy to see why. Their online platform is fun to use and, most importantly, it is designed with the latest language-learning science in mind. Now you might not be an expert at spaced-repetition or all the other scientific ways of learn a language, but you don’t have to be. They’ve done all that research for us, and they’ve designed a series of programs to help us learn our languages. I say “us” because I use the MosaLingua resources in Spanish. And you can too, in English or in any of their other languages, by going to PlainEnglish.com/learn. If you don’t want to commit right away, you can sign up for a free trial, but I think you’ll get a lot out of it. There are lots of good videos and audios on the platform too—so you can search for the sad ones and get a good crying session in at the same time as you practice your English. Kill two birds with one stone, right? That’s all for you at PlainEnglish.com/learn, our partner MosaLingua. PlainEnglish.com/learn.

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Expression: Latch onto