When I was small, my mom, my brothers, and I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood every day before we took our afternoon nap. I learned many valuable life lessons from the gentle PBS legend, and one of the most important was a lesson he sang in a song I can still remember: “There are many ways to say ‘I love you.'”
He was right, of course. From cards, chocolates, and flowers to long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, and *ahem* making the beast with two backs, the ways we humans have devised of expressing our love are veritably endless.
But I’m willing to bet most of us probably hadn’t thought of expressing our love for our significant other by walking on a stage, screaming at the top of our lungs in front of a crowd of total strangers, curious passersby, and a fleet of television cameras, amirite?
That’s exactly what several dozen men did in a Tokyo park on January 29, though. The love-your-wife shout-out is an annual event held two days before Beloved Wives Day, and some men travel hundreds of miles to participate. The event was conceived by 53-year-old Kiyotaka Yamana, a man whose first marriage fell apart because he frequently ignored his wife to focus on his career. When I remarried, I realized I needed a new attitude,” he told NPR. “In the past, my life was all about making money. Now, it’s wife first, career second.”
Yamana founded a “wife-appreciation society” because, he says, the famously modest Japanese culture has traditionally discouraged displays of affection.
“The traditional belief is it isn’t proper to express affection out loud, that love should be simply understood. But it isn’t,” he says.
Many Japanese face such excruciating pressure to succeed in school and in their careers that their personal lives suffer. So Yamana instituted the shout-out event as a way to give men a chance to say — or rather, scream as loudly as they can — all the things they haven’t found themselves able to tell their loved ones privately.
Yamana’s goal? According to NPR reporter Lucy Craft, it’s simple: to teach his peers that the true way to happiness is by adoring their spouses, one hug at a time.