Student Support Series: A year in Japan

For course-related fieldwork and conference funding, Green Templeton students can apply for Competitive Conference and Fieldwork Funding (CCFF). In the run up to Giving Day on the 5 and 6 February 2020, we’ve spoken to some of our students who have secured this funding to hear more about the work and experiences it contributes to.

Carlota Sola Marsinach, (DPhil Anthropology, 2018) based at the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, spoke to us about her time studying the lived experience of sadness and depression in Japan.

Photo of Carlota ola Marsinach in Japan

“I am a second year DPhil student in Anthropology who just returned from a year-long fieldwork in Japan, where I have been researching ruikatsu, a tear-seeking activity steadily proliferating in Tokyo since 2013. Presented as useful in reducing stress levels, ruikatsu activities are held in companies, schools, hospitals and other such venues with the aim of managing the mental health of students and staff. To do so students, parents, teachers, nurses and other types of employees gather together in order to watch emotional movies or to listen to moving stories with the ultimate aim of crying in group and relieve their stress.

In addition, ruikatsu is used as a form of team-building: since crying in public is very stigmatized in Japan, doing so in front of your peers is considered to be a sign of mutual trust. As a result, ruikatsu is used to try and solve issues of bullying and mobbing in schools and companies respectively by means of fostering empathy and improving communication. Furthermore, during ruikatsu activities people are taught that sometimes to show your vulnerabilities to others –by crying, for example– is not shameful but normal, being a way of taking care of your own wellbeing and, consequently, your own productivity. In this way, drawing from the ethnographic data I gathered during my fieldwork in Japan, my thesis will explore the perception and performance of crying in said country, as well as the economic, medical and socio-political changes that are allowing ruikatsu’s demand to steadily grow.

Photo of Carlota ola Marsinach in Japan with food

Overall, my research in Japan has been quite an exhilarating journey; through ruikatsu I have been able to meet people from all walks of life, sharing in some of their most personal experiences and getting invaluable insight into an emotional way of being that at times felt very familiar, but at others seemed drastically different from my own. However, such a rich ethnographic experience would not have been possible without the support of the Competitive Conference and Fieldwork Funding (CCFF), which I was awarded a year ago. In this way, even though I hold a very generous full scholarship, it is conceived to fund my stay in the UK rather than in Japan. However, once I settled in Tokyo I quickly realised that the cost of living (specially of transportation) there was much higher than in Oxford. The extra economic support provided by the CCFF helped me fund my daily transportation costs to field sites and interviews, and especially some invaluable fieldwork trips which otherwise I would not have been able to carry through. And for that, I am extremely grateful.”

You can find out more about Carlota’s research on her departmental profile page.

You can find out more about giving to college, and about Giving Day coming up on 5 and 6 February on the Giving Day event page.

Created: 30 January 2020