For 7,900 yen, or about $65, it is now possible in Japan to hire an attractive man to come to your workplace and gently brush away your tears as you weep. If you need help getting the waterworks flowing, he will also patiently sit in your cubicle and watch sad videos with you until you cry.
The Tokyo-based company Ikemeso Danshi—roughly, “Handsome Weeping Boys”—offers an online look book of prospective tear-wipers. One appears ready to scrub those tears away with a toothbrush, but, hey. Maybe some people are into that.
Crying together is the latest experience available for purchase in Japan once reserved only for people with at least some prior acquaintance with one another: sex, obviously, but also cuddling, watching television, or cleaning up your apartment after you die alone in it.
Ikemeso Danshi was started by Hiroki Terai, a businessman with a particular acumen for identifying monetizable gaps in the emotional health of an increasingly atomized society. Terai’s previous ventures include a successful business offering formal ceremonies to mark the end of a marriage. When he saw how much better clients of that service seemed to feel after a good cry, he started a series of free screenings of sad movie clips in 2013, aimed at getting strangers to cry in public, together.
Terai has since become something of an evangelist on the benefits of rui-katsu, or “tear seeking.” Last year he published a book, also called Ikemeso Danshi, featuring photographs of male models crying.
About one-third of Japanese households contain just one person, according to government statistics, up from a quarter in 1995. By 2035, people living alone will likely make up almost 40% of Japanese households, according to national population estimates. And Japan’s divorce rate has crept steadily upward since the 1970s, as the marriage rate has collapsed.