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Seminar in Japan focuses on crying to release stress

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Studies show the stress release from crying lasts a week. (Source: CNN) Studies show the stress release from crying lasts a week. (Source: CNN)
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TOKYO (CNN) - "We need never be ashamed of our tears," wrote Charles Dickens. But many in Japan disagree.

"Crying doesn't have a good image in Japan," says Takashi Saga. "People believe you should not cry in front of people, that it's weak."

Saga is a "tears sommelier" - no different, he says, from the connoisseur who chooses your wine.

"Selecting wines that matches food is similar to my job. I introduce books, movies and video that touch(es) the people's emotion," Saga said.

And that's what this audience is here for. Twice a month, Saga holds a "rui-katsu," a crying for joy seminar. He says when people get emotional and cry, life's burdens, tensions and frustrations melt away.

"Laughing can only release the stress at that moment," Saga said, "but studies show the stress release from crying lasts for a week. Crying is better for your physical and mental health."

Some scientific studies back him up. When we cry for emotional reasons - as opposed to the crying we do when cutting an onion, for example - the tears we shed contain the same kinds of hormones released when the body is under physical stress.

As the participants settled in, there is lots of polite bowing and tight-lipped, poker-faced grimaces. And then, a monk begins to tell a sad story. When Saga then shows a video of emotional scenes set to Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You, there isn't a dry eye in the house.

"The story about parent and child touches my emotion, and I can't stop crying," Aya Nemoto said.

"I became highly emotional and couldn't stop crying. I hardly cry at home, but I cried here," Kengo Tsuda said.

Once it's over, the frowns have disappeared.

"When it starts, some look provocative with a ‘try and make me.' But when people cry here, they always show us big smile at the end of the session," Saga said.

That seems to release the smiles, even in Japan.

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