For a nation of people stereotyped as emotionlessness robots, the Japanese do have a visceral streak when it comes to letting you know how they feel.
The internalised shame of the Samurai becomes very much externalised when they disembowel themselves in the act of seppuku. The right-wing in Japan march through busy city centres on giant military vehicles, yelping about nationalism and traditional values. At the funeral procession of Hideto "Hide" Matsumoto, the former guitarist of metal band X Japan, thousands of men and women lined the streets, weeping to the point of collapse and being given water by ambulance services to replenish their fluid levels, only to cry it all back out again. You can watch the video below; it makes Lady Di's funeral look like a bailiff's.
But crying in the middle of a road can be dangerous. So it's good that, a mere 17 years on from that sad day, the Mitsui Garden Yotsuya Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo has designated a specific room where women can go to have a massive weep in. It has cashmere-soft tissues, weepy films like Forrest Gump, sad books and warm blankets. A spokesperson for the hotel said its aim is to help Japanese women lower their stress levels.
Stress is something the modern Japanese woman may well encounter frequently. In Tokyo there are female-only train carriages that run from about 7.30AM to 9.30AM, as the issue of sexual harassment on the unfathomably busy morning commute is so prevalent. The nation has one of the world's worst gender-equality gaps, so it's no wonder some women are feeling crushed to the extent that they're willing to splash out on an impromptu cry.
When we see that the Japanese have invented some zany new space, most of the time it seems to be devoted to hosting something cute: a cat cafe, an owl cafe, the slightly more sinister cuddle cafe. But there is nothing particularly cute about a crying room. It hints at something deeper. Tokyo is one of the most populous cities on Earth, and Japan is a nation in which the cities are built on the narrow plains that run between vast stretches of mountainous land. This leaves millions and millions of people crammed into relatively small spaces, where the need for politeness and social tranquility is perhaps more of a societal necessity than the fruits of a good upbringing. You can't have that many people stuffed in one place walking around being cunts all day.
So what is the Japanese woman to do with her stress in a land of politely stifled emotions? Book a room at the Mitsui Garden Yotsuya Hotel, it appears. Thing is – and I'm no expert – surely a better plan would be to exact the changes in society that alleviate the type of pressures that cause someone to fall, red-faced, into a room full of gloomy books and films, and release the frustrations they're feeling. But I guess opening up a €74-a-pop crying arena is a decent second option.
There's something about the idea of crying rooms that is undoubtedly funny. But sadly, it also speaks to the lack of space that city-dwelling Japanese women have to themselves. Space to reflect and cool down away from inebriated salarymen. A lack of parks and greenery to sit and shed a few. Flats that are, on average, about the size of a bin lid. Claustrophobia elbowing you in the ribs at home, at work, on the train, on the street. Laugh at the concept of the crying room, of course, but spare a thought for those who might actually need it.
More on VICE: