Travel

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. 

Travel

Find Volcanoes, Wine Islands, and Thrills in Auckland

One minute you're on a ferry to wine island, the next you could be bungy jumping off of New Zealand's tallest tower.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

The city of Auckland is a free spirit. It is easily the most geographically blessed city in New Zealand. Within an hour, you could be tasting wines on an island, chasing more than 50 volcanoes, or leaving footprints on a black sand beach. Keep in mind, that Auckland is the country’s most populous city but certainly doesn’t feel cramped.

Instead, the city is buzzing with trendy eateries, boutique shops, quiet streets, and expansive green parks. Around every corner, you’re never too far from something beautiful to see.

From world-class wines to kickass thrills, here’s where to find what you’re looking for in Auckland.

things to do auckland

Seek the thrills

If you thought Queenstown was the home of the adrenaline rush, wait until you see Auckland. In the middle of the city, you can jump off a sky tower or a bridge, zip through the jungle, and scream on a high-octane jet boat ride. The Sky Tower, which can be seen from every corner of Auckland is more than just a landmark. Take a ride to the top and sign up for a Skywalk, where you can wander around the platform, which just so happens to be 192 metres above the ground. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you can always jump off it. It’s New Zealand’s highest jump, and can only be described as just like being a movie stuntman, or a superhero. 

The other iconic place to jump off of is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Unlike the Sky Jump, this one will have thrill seekers dipping their hands and head in the ocean. It’s a 40-metre Bungy, and a great experience. Although, if you’d rather still take advantage of the bridge views, book a climb, which takes you right to the top for sweeping views of the city.

Another way to take in the city is via Auckland Adventure Jet, which takes passengers for spins and tricks on the water.

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, where thrill-seekers will find Eco Zip Adventures. Across three separate lines, you will zip high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Sip wine on Waiheke Island

Whether you want to spend a weekend or a day, Waiheke Island is a must-visit. It’s around a 35-minute ferry ride to the island from Auckland, and once there you can hop from winery to winery. The island is quite large and the terrain is rugged, so trust the experts and book a tour with Ananda Tours. The small, family-run business is owned by Jenny who has been on the island since before the vines were planted and she’s the best person to seek out when getting the Waiheke Island experience. You can book a private tour or group tour, and they can be catered to your preferences and tastes. A few standout stops include Kennedy Point, where they produce fully certified organic Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay wines. You can also state estate-grown olive oils, which the island has plenty of. Enjoy a tasting on the deck with views of Kennedy Bay, or enjoy a picnic under the olive grove.

For the best views on the island, head to Batch Vineyard. As the highest vineyard on Waiheke, you will be treated to panoramic views of the rolling hills, blue waters, and even Auckland city. Their sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs is a must-try.

When it comes to lunch, there are two spots to choose from. The first is Stonyridge, which is also where you can taste premium award-winning wines, including a Cabernet blend Larose‚ÄĒNew Zealand’s cult wine. The second is Mudbrick, a romantic spot, set amongst beautiful gardens with even more spectacular views, and a bar and bistro serving up some of the best dishes on the island.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Eat your way through the city

Auckland’s dining scene isn’t pretentious, but the food quality is good enough to rival the best restaurants in New York‚ÄĒbut the city doesn’t like to brag. Instead, it celebrates good food in every setting, from waterside restaurants to trendy Mexican eateries in a shopping centre.

Inca, is helmed by critically acclaimed chef, Nic Watt. Inspired by Watt’s travels to Peru, diners can expect to find Nikkei cuisine, including spicy chicken karaage, hand-pressed corn tacos filled with pork cheek and spicy tuna. You wouldn’t expect to find such a good restaurant in a shopping centre, but there it is.

Another great trendy restaurant is Hello Beasty, which is home to the famous, prawn and crab toast. This work of art starts with a slice of crispy deep-fried bread, smothered with prawn and crab mousse. On top, there are slices of wagyu, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce. Although, there are plenty of other great dishes on the menu, including a Sichuan tuna tartare, Korean fried cauliflower, and potstickers swimming in chilli oil. Try the yuzu mandarin soda if you’re looking for something fizzy to go with dinner or lunch.

Deli De Bossi is a recent opening and already becoming a favourite breakfast spot. Apart from coffee, you can get all kinds of toasted sandwiches, filled with everything from mushrooms to hams and salamis.

Another iconic eat-hit list is Parade in Ponsonby. Here, the burgers are served in a pretzel bun and filled with chicken or beef.

Most of these restaurants are casual, but if you’re looking for something a little fancy, book a table at Kingi. Taking cues from Sydney’s own Josh Niland, the dishes at Kingi focus on sustainable seafood, caught locally by local fishermen. The blue cod wings are a must. They’re covered in burnt lime and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. The stracciatella with feijoa is also a standout dish, that’s light and a great start to a meal. Inside, the dining room is cosy with bench seats, fire heaters, and exploded brick walls.

After dinner, walk down the street and grab dessert from Miann. The flavour of the day is always chocolate, and they serve up seriously good desserts. Try the tasting platter for a piece of each pastry on the menu of the day, or pick one that is most desirable to you. Although, the tasting platter is only $23 and you’d be missing out on tasting a little of everything they offer if you didn’t get it.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Discover art, culture, and movie magic

One of the best ways to learn about a city or country is by visiting its top museums and galleries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits atop a hill in Auckland’s Domain, which also happens to be the city’s oldest volcano. This museum is one of the most important as it tells the story of New Zealand’s natural and military history. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of interactive features for the kids and adults. The museum also hosts exhibitions. An ancient Greek exhibition is currently on display and is one of the largest exhibitions the British Museum has ever loaned to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Art lovers, spend a few hours wandering around the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O TńĀmaki. You will find artworks from around the world, including a Picasso or two. Although, the exhibitions are a real treat. Yona Lee’s, An Arrangement of Five Rooms is an incredible installation, spanning multiple rooms, which you can sit on and touch‚ÄĒto immerse yourself in the artwork. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, is another must-see exhibition exploring the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty), activism and social justice.

While art and history museums are insightful and a great way to educate a visitor, there are some other museum types that can be a lot of fun and interactive. Weta Workshop Unleashed is a new Auckland attraction and an incredible experience you don’t want to miss. Step into the world of filmmaking, explore how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films are made and at times feel as if you’re in a movie. Comedic tour guides will introduce you to movies that are in production and explain every aspect, from prop making to effects, and more. There are even mysteries to be solved, making it fun for the whole family. It’s truly an unmissable experience in Auckland, and one of the best, unique tours you might ever experience.

things to do auckland
Photo: @sidwithlens

Walk on a volcano

Erupting over 100,000 years ago, Pukekawa is one of Auckland’s oldest and most popular volcanoes. Today, the Domain parkland is the remains of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of Pukekawa. Most days you will see people running around the park, families picnicking on the weekend, and tourists snapping photos by the pond or under a magnificent tree, grown from an experiment conducted by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. Enter from one end, enjoy a picturesque walk, and exit through the historic Parnell shopping and restaurant area. On a sunny day, the atmosphere is charged with romance, but even in the rain, it’s a moody, beautiful sight to see. The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s large neo-Greek architecture is also a standout, commanding top-of-the-mountain views.

where to stay in auckland

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re looking to sleep on top of the world, you can’t beat a room in Cordis Auckland’s new Pinnacle Tower. From the pillowy-cloud-like beds, guests have sweeping views of the city from the Sky Tower to Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Enjoy a breakfast buffet in the Eight restaurant downstairs, and canapes and drinks in the Cordis Club lounge on the 14th floor. There’s also a health club, spa, and swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance to some of the best eateries in Auckland, making it a prime option.

Although, if you’re looking to stay in the heart of Britomart, Auckland’s hub of shopping, eating, and drinking, then The Hotel Britomart is where you want to be. From its exterior of hand-made bricks to its beautifully timber-lined rooms, The Hotel Britomart does detail like nobody else. Plus, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door. With 5 Green Star Design and Build ratings from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is the country‚Äôs ONLY 5 Green Star hotel, and has sustainability built in from the ground up.¬†

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