…this word, this act, comes down to this: a created space specifically for tears.
Rui-katsu is a “happening” in Japan, an allowance for people to gather and cry. Powerful stuff. The way it works is people gather in a movie theatre/ viewing room and they watch sad movies…very sad movies…so sad, that they tear up, cry, bawl even. Here in the United States, that might seem odd, but our cultural allowance for tears in private or in public is generally accepted…not so historically, in Japan.
Think of the history that dominates the cultural practices of Japan in terms of self-expression…”self” period. The “individual” is not Japan’s history – it is a history of Society: You are a part of the whole, acting not as one, sacrificing not as one, tending to the country not as one…but as a part of the whole. What you do, you do for your country, not for self. Japan is a nation of the Samuri: of Seppuku, otherwise known as Harakari: the taking of one’s life in order to maintain honor. Harakari, or the taking of one’s life, was carried out in front of an audience so that the dishonor could be witnessed by the many, in order to ensure that the disgrace had been atoned…for the entire nation. That is quite a weight to bear.
History lies down slowly. I think this is true no matter which history you explore.
Here in the United States of America, our path is not aligned with the idea of “Society” – ours is, instead, the rugged path of the Individual. America is the land of the Cowboy – “picking oneself up by your bootstraps” – of owning your failure just as equally as you own your accomplishments…you and you alone. Period. And even if we do recognize that this is more than slightly ridiculous – no woman or man is an island – everything we are/become, is a collective of who we have shared our lives/experiences with, along the way…nonetheless, the “myth” of the Individual stands strong here. Powerful. A mountain of a man (or perhaps, woman) strong, powerful, ready to face whatever comes his or her way…alone.
In this respect, both Americans and the Japanese are in need of the allowance of what Rui-Katsu opens in us…a safe place to experience and allow, Vulnerability.
When we writers, write about the lives of our characters, we are looking for the point of entry, the “punctum” that penetrates us/and our readers, emotionally, so that we/they, can FEEL what the characters feel…how it makes US feel. We read books, poetry, watch movies, see stage plays, as a way to engage in the human condition, and perhaps, to remind ourselves that we are really not so alone. We all have feelings that we carry around with us, that we often feel need to be kept under wraps because if we let them loose we might appear weak, unstable, incapable of facing life. So hence, Art: music, cinema, painting, poetry, literature…these devices or platforms allow us the space necessary to safely engage in our own vulnerability…to wade into the waters of being human and all the challenges that this presents. By having these “safe arenas” of artistic expression, we are allowed the space necessary to face these challenges, engage with them, probe them and better understand them…which allows us the breadth and allowance, to tackle our own.