I’ve heard of laughter therapy for relieving stress, but I didn’t know the reverse existed as well. In Japan, people gather in groups to let the boo-hoos out. These ‘crying seminars’ are conducted by Takashi Saga, who calls himself a ‘tears sommelier’. “Selecting wines that matches food is similar to my job,” he said. “I introduce books, movies and videos that touch the people’s emotion.”
“Crying doesn’t have a good image in Japan,” Saga added. “People believe you should not cry in front of people, that it’s weak.” So twice a month, Saga organizes a ‘ruikatsu’ – a crying for joy seminar. When people get emotional and cry, he believes that life’s burdens, tensions and frustrations melt away. “Laughing can only release stress at that moment. But studies show the stress release from crying lasts for a week. Crying is better for your physical and mental health.”
It turns out that Saga might actually be right. Some scientific studies have proven that when we cry for emotional reasons, our tears contain the same kind of hormones released by the body during physical stress. Most people start his sessions with a poker face and a ‘try and make me’ kind of attitude. But the activities that Saga plans for his class always ensure that no one leaves dry-eyed.
For instance, this one session started off with a traditional story teller narrating a sad tale. This was followed by a video of emotional scenes with Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ playing in the background. Pretty soon, everyone in the room was crying. Aya Nemoto, a participant, said: “The story about parent and child touches my emotion, and I can’t stop crying. I released my stress here.”
“I became highly emotional and couldn’t stop crying. I hardly cry at home, but I cried here,” said Kengo Tsuda.
“When people cry here, they always show us a big smile at the end of the session,” said Saga.