Thursday, October 27, 2016
"Japanese city gives back photo award stripped in connection with girl’s suicide"
Image and text from The Japan Times, 10/19/16.
A northeastern Japanese city buckled under public criticism and decided Wednesday to hand back a cancelled photography award despite the subject of the winner’s artwork being a girl who was bullied into committing suicide.
The city of Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture, had stripped the winning photographer of his award because he had unwittingly submitted a photo featuring a dancing and smiling 13-year-old Rima Kasai, who later took her own life.
Kuroishi Mayor Ken Takahi told a news conference, “We would like to deeply apologize to her bereaved family.”
After the withdrawal of the award on Monday, Kasai’s family released both her name and the award-winning image in the hope it would bring attention to the issue of bullying, saying they want people to see their daughter smiling.
The photo was taken in Kuroishi on Aug. 15, 10 days before Kasai jumped to her death from a train platform. The girl had left a suicide note asking that her tormentors never bully again.
Unaware of the girl’s fate, the photographer later submitted his photo to a contest linked to the Kuroishi Yosare festival.
Despite the family giving its consent to the handing out of the accolade, the contest’s executive committee withdrew the mayor’s award after protests from within their organization.
Kasai committed suicide while in her second year of junior high school. She had been bullied by her classmates via a messaging app for more than a year before her death.
A sad story indeed. I think the issue behind the withdrawal of the photo award wasn't so much out of respect for the privacy of the family but rather to cover up the bullying in the city and school. I admire the family for going public and offer my deepest sympathies for their loss.