Behind the strange Japanese trend to cope with stress

Japanese work culture is at an extreme. As the boundary between work hours and personal lives become murkier, the societal pressure to perform grows. As a result of this kind of workplace culture, a new stress-relieving practice has emerged. Introduced last year by a company named Ikemeso Danshi, women are able to hire men (referred to as Ikemeso’s) to come into their office and help alleviate their worries. Together, they watch a slideshow of touching videos and photos, the Ikemeso encourages the woman to share her feelings and cry, and then he wipes her tears away.

Reading about this concept online, photographer Albert Bonsfills felt an immediate draw to the subject, which he pursued with a trip to Tokyo. It was from there that he started to envision a series of images on the subject.

At first, integrating himself into the culture wasn’t easy, “because they didn’t want to give you permission, or show that they needed to cry,” he says. Eventually over the six months he spent photographing women using this service, it became easier. “I was a bit afraid even after I got their permission, because I didn’t want them to feel shy or too observed by a western guy taking pictures so close.”