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Shedding Tears Is the "In" Thing to Do (March 29, 2006)

The DVD cover for the Always: San-chome no Yuhi
Tearjerkers, whether they be movies, TV series, or novels, are nothing new. What is new, however, is Japan's current "crying boom" - a fashion for shedding tears. Many of the top-selling films and books in Japan today feature stories designed to make their audiences weep by the time the closing credits or final chapter roll around. Movie posters and book jackets proudly boast that the stories they promote are so wrought with emotion that the viewers and readers are nearly guaranteed to cry.

Korean Effect
What is behind Japan's tearjerker boom? Many people think the answer lies in the string of South Korea TV dramas that have recently been shown in Japan. For many Japanese, the first taste of these series came in 2003, when Winter Sonata, a series portraying the tragic love story of a young man and woman who find themselves in love for the first time, was first screened in Japan. The series quickly became a huge hit, particularly among middle-aged women, who seemed to have grown tired of their own country's more emotionally restrained dramas.

Winter Sonata was followed by a number of other South Korean dramas in which tragedy and romance took center stage. Thanks to this boom, several of the South Korean actors and actresses in the shows managed to export their superstar status to Japan. Since then, Japan's publishing, movie, and TV industries have been rolling out their own brands of tearjerker fiction.

The novel Sekai no Chushin de, Ai o Sakebu (Crying for Love at the Heart of the World), a love story centering around a girl with leukemia, and the TV series Ichi-rittoru no Namida (A Liter of Tears), based on the diary of a girl with an incurable disease, are among the stories that have taken the arts and entertainment world by storm.

Past Tragedies
It almost seems as if Japan's publishers and movie producers are competing to see who can produce the most tears among the movie-going and book-reading public. Recent emotionally charged movies include Always: San-chome no Yuhi (Sunset on the Third Street), set in the late 1950s, and Otoko-tachi no Yamato (Yamato), another period piece, about the ill-fated crew of a famous World War II battleship. Critics have noted the power of these movies to reduce their audiences to tears - a result not just of the tragedies they portray but also of the sense of nostalgia they engender in their viewers.

South Korean TV series, meanwhile, continue to go strong in Japan. Watashi no Atama no Naka no Keshigomu (A Moment to Remember), a love story covering the issue of young people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, is the latest popular tearjerker import.

In the book world, joining the ranks of Sekai no Chushin de, Ai o Sakebu is Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to, Tokidoki, Oton (Tokyo Tower: Mother and I, and Sometimes Father) by Lily Franky, which has sold over a million copies. This genre of fiction is so popular now that there's even a new name for it: "tear books." Magazines have even printed special features on "books that bring out the tears when you read them," and "tear book" sections are being set up at bookstores nationwide.

Have a Good Cry
Shedding tears appears to have mental health benefits. People have long reported feeling good after having a good cry, and researchers in Japan and overseas in recent years have determined that crying is effective in reducing people's stress levels. Tears produced from emotions differ in composition from those produced from such things as onions or eye irritations, according to some research. It is becoming increasingly clear that tears from crying are related to changes taking place inside the brain.

"Tears are the sweat of the heart" is a famous Japanese saying, and it may contain more scientific truth than its author ever imagined. Like sweat, tears seem to serve the function of ridding the body of waste substances. So it is no wonder that people often feel refreshed after a good cry. Perhaps the latest crop of tearjerker TV dramas, movies and books could be seen as an effective way of staying healthy.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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