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In the News / Masako Yamamoto / Photographer helps young women have their special day

The Yomiuri Shimbun

By Hiromi Tanaka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Masako Yamamoto is working on a project to help women who have grown up in children’s homes by photographing them wearing kimono to their coming-of-age ceremonies.

Under the “ACHA project,” the women wear furisode long-sleeved kimono, which are typically worn for coming-of-age ceremonies. Volunteers help the women get dressed, do their make up and take photos.

Since spring 2016, Yamamoto has taken photos of seven women free of charge in such places as a public facility in Tokyo.

Children’s homes are institutions where children who are unable to live with their parents due to abuse or other reasons can live until around age 18.

Yamamoto, 23, lived at one from the age of four months. She became independent after graduating from high school and enrolled at an evening facility that trains childcare workers through a financial support program. She now works at a children’s center in Tokyo.

Yamamoto gave up on wearing a furisode or attending a coming-of-age ceremony when she became an adult because of a lack of money. People around Yamamoto said she should attend the ceremony, but she replied that she was not interested — contrary to her real wish.

That experience drove Yamamoto to despair. “Why do I have to live?” she asked herself.

A year later, a woman Yamamoto got to know at the evening facility offered help. She provided Yamamoto with money to dress up in a furisode and be photographed. The woman, who Yamamoto called “Acha-san,” said, “I hope you realize you have been loved by many people.”

The woman’s kindness made Yamamoto realize that “people care about her.”

People who wish to be photographed can make contact through the project’s website. After applying, they will be able to discuss their wishes, such as a hairstyle and places to take photos, and choose a furisode donated to the project.

Yamamoto hopes to give women who had similar experiences as her another gift — the courage to take a step toward the future.Speech

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