Resolve to Cry More in 2021

With crying therapy, the Japanese are unlocking the healing power of tears.

Image by Grace Han for Thrillist
Image by Grace Han for Thrillist
Image by Grace Han for Thrillist

The Japanese excel at-and often get very excited about-a great many things: amazing convenience stores, cutting-edge fashion, technological dominance, this giant robot. But when emotions swing to the other end of the spectrum, things become much more complicated. And bottled up.In Japan, negative emotion and vulnerability are often couched in shame. A 2011 study on culture and crying found the Japanese had some of the driest eyes in the world. Much of Japan is so averse to publicly showing sadness that the appearance of happiness is commodified: consider the rise of the rent-a-friend, services designed to help combat crippling loneliness while also giving off the illusion of a fuller and more social lifestyle.Collectively, Japan could use a good cry. That’s where Hidefumi Yoshida, self-proclaimed “namida-sensei,” or “tears teacher,” comes in.Since 2013, Yoshida has led more than 50,000 Japanese in the lacrimal way with his basically made-up practice of rui-katsu, or tears therapy, espousing its immune-boosting, detoxing, and stress-relieving benefits. And as it stands, it’s all very accurate.”When you cry you release stress hormones from the body, it creates endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones, the natural painkillers in the body,” explains Judith Orloff MD, author of Emotional Freedom and clinical psychiatry faculty member at UCLA, who has been asked about this topic a lot in recent years.Withholding tears can have detrimental physical effects like stress and anxiety buildup, which can cause increased blood pressure, muscle tightening, stress, and discomfort. In one case Dr. Orloff recalls a patient’s refusal to cry after a breakup rendering her much worse off.”Crying is an expression of grief but if you don’t let it flow then it can turn into depression,” she explains.Collaborating with Hideho Arita, professor emeritus of neurophysiology at Toho University School of Medicine and author of Techniques for Freeing Your Mind of Stress, Yoshida began hosting crying therapy sessions encouraging adults to embrace the health benefits of a good sob.Rejuvenation through weeping isn’t exclusive to therapy sessions, though. In ever-entrepreneurial Tokyo, one company offers the services of ikemeso danshi, or “handsome weeping boys,” who visit your office and use videos to induce tears before wiping them away. Attractive men in categories like “singing cool beauty boys,” “swordsman,” and “dentist” are used to combat the stereotype that crying is the domain of women, but the benefits are… plentiful.

So many crying clubs -where participants gather to collectively blubber to YouTube videos, film clips, and even insurance commercials-popped up in recent years that it was dubbed a social phenomenon. In one rollercoaster of a session, images on screen ranged from the human aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 to a family interacting with their cat. Viewers didn’t stand a chance.What could easily be dismissed as a quirky wellness fad in the land of the rabbit cafe and used-underwear vending machines became a movement to save lives. Things picked up for Yoshida when in 2015 a rise in worker compensation claims for burnout prompted Japan to encourage stress-checks in mid-to-large companies. Overwork is such a problem in the country that they’ve invented a word for literally working yourself to death: karoshi.Armed with his bummer arsenal, former high school teacher and school counselor Yoshida has squeezed the saltwater everywhere from corporate offices to hospitals to elementary schools. He’s hosted free crying sessions in mental-health facilities and set up shop in a local planetarium with a tear-jerking soundtrack played under 38,000 fake, beautiful stars.He’s even opened the Tears and Travel Cafe Akane where you’re able to make an appointment for up to five people, the website welcoming “Those who want to cry, those who are in trouble because they cannot cry, those who are stressed, and those who are tired of life.” Tea is served, alongside manipulative images, evocative songs, and children’s books. The curious price is for “only the amount you’ve cried,” but multitasking is more concrete: a manicure with a side of cry is 17300 yen, or approximately $166. Recently Yoshida’s work captured the attention of filmmaker Noémie Nakai, whose documentary short about him, Tears Teacher, is featured in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.“It’s fun and wacky, but in Japan where many people feel they can’t be vulnerable, I believe he’s spreading an important message about mental health,” Nakai told the Japan Times. The film begins with the question Yoshida poses in every session: When was the last time you cried?His latest endeavor sees him Pied-Pipering weepers on a crying tour across Kamakura, a seaside city scattered with breathtaking landscapes (sob at the beauty) and tragic history (weep for the fallen). Stops include the Miharashidai viewpoint overlooking the ocean, and the Buddhist Hokai Temple, which dates back to 1333 and enshrines the 870 members of the once-ruling Hōjō clan who in accordance with samurai code committed mass suicide to escape defeat. They probably… did not cry.In fact it’s this bushido, or samurai code, that’s probably the easiest thing to point to when it comes to Japan’s crying problem. It’s a country so known for its stoicism there’s a word for the suck-it-up ethos informing aspects from burnout to refusing pain pills: gaman, generally translated as perseverance, more fine-tuned as “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” Holding in tears is seen as a virtue. Yoshida’s crying therapy offers a safe space for people to let it all out, without the fear of cultural stigma.And though we crybabies in the West don’t need to be told twice how cathartic it feels to wallow-just ask Aerosmith-we also may not be fully aware just how good it is for us. Sadly, there’s no equivalent of rui-katsu in the US: our group wailing sessions, at least in the Beforetimes, generally involve prestige Oscar bait in big movie theaters.

Maybe Japan is onto something in this time of elevated grief. They were, after all, pretty on point when it came to the healing effects of hanging out with trees.

“It sounds wonderful,” says Orloff of the practice. “A way to process grief and get some endorphins. We need to cry at everything that’s happened to our country. It would be good for us as well.”Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She never needs a reason to cry. 


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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