Move sparked controversy among Japanese netizens. 

It’s the middle of January, and that means Coming of Age Ceremonies, or Seijinshiki, are happening across Japan. Well, not everywhere, as many have been canceled, postponed, or turned virtual because of Tokyo’s State of Emergency. Still, in Arao City in the southwestern prefecture of Kumamoto, the ceremonies were held as scheduled, but an unusual occurrence is causing a stir.

One seat of the ceremony was occupied not by a person, but a portrait. It was an oil painting in a gilded frame of Chika Fukakasa, a third year high school student who was bullied to the point of suicide three years ago, at the age of 17. The portrait is based on a photo of her taken shortly before she died, rendered as wearing a kimono to suit the occasion in her favorite color, blue, since she would have celebrated reaching adulthood this year at the age of 20.

Her parents commissioned the painting because they wished for her to be able to join her friends at this turning point in their lives. On the  day of the ceremony, her classmates carried her portrait to the venue and set it on a chair, where she could watch and listen as if she were among them. One of her classmates, who had attended all the same schools as Chika, said, “I’ve regretted not being able to see how much pain Chika was in at the time…but today, I’m glad that she could be here. I was able to tell her ‘congratulations.'”

Chika’s mother sent her classmates a card to thank them for their help in getting Chika to the ceremony. “It’s hard for me to think about why she’s not here anymore. But I think Chika would have wanted to cheer you on for your future,” it said.

It was a touching gesture for many in attendance and a powerful reminder that bullying is a real and serious problem, but though her parents were likely happy to see Chika at the ceremony where she would have celebrated becoming an adult, many on Twitter actually thought the idea to be rather tasteless.

“Isn’t this just for the sake of the people who are still alive? At the very least, I doubt she would want to participate in a Seijinshiki together with her bullies.”
“Are these people really her friends if they stood by and watched her get bullied and die? Are they trying to let it end on such a pretty note? Something doesn’t ring true here.”
“Ugh. Sorry to her friends and parents, but I wouldn’t want this.”
“I’m sure the friends they asked couldn’t say no…and I’m sure the parents have very complicated feelings about this. But if it were my child I definitely would not go to this extent.”
“I don’t know how to explain…I feel weird about this.”
“If she was bullied so much to the extent that she wanted to take her life, all of her classmates are her enemies. The idea of being surrounded by enemies at a coming-of-age ceremony makes me want to puke. Those people all did it for their own egos and weren’t thinking about her at all.”
“Hmm…I don’t like the feeling that she was forcibly being put on display even in death. It’s like digging her up from her grave and forcing her to see all her bullies around her smile and be happy.”

Though it may seem tone-deaf to some to celebrate the “coming-of-age” of a girl who isn’t here to be celebrated, perhaps this was simply something that the parents needed to do to help put their daughter’s death behind them. Grief is a hard thing, and it’s difficult to say what their thoughts were in organizing this event, but hopefully allowing Chika to enjoy a staple of young Japanese life like the Coming of Age Ceremony relieved them of some of the pain of not getting to see her come of age.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

Source: Nishi Nihon Shimbun via Yahoo! News via My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso

● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.