Sharing a positive message
Jun. 27, 2017
There's a book in Japan that's getting readers' attention with its positive message about looks and life. "Kao nimo makezu," or "Facing our Challenges," shares the experiences of 9 people who have struggled with facial deformity.
Shizuka Kawayoke from Central Japan is one of the people in the book.
A congenital disease in her blood vessels affects her mouth and nose.
"I always wondered if life would have been better if I looked normal," she says.
Kawayoke says that even though it was sometimes tough at school, she never stopped going. But her teenage years were different.
"I was depressed in high school and college because I thought that no one could fall in love with me because of my face."
After graduating, Kawayoke wanted to get married, but nothing worked out.
She often felt hurt, but she didn't give up.
"I started looking for a job that would give me a chance to work with men, so they could get to know me," she says.
She started working at a distribution company where met her husband. They now have 2 children.
"Her outward appearance doesn't really have much meaning for me. I think she has a unique personality, and that's more important," says her husband.
"Sometimes, I feel depressed with my appearance. But I want to enjoy my life, and look back knowing that it was wonderful," says Kawayoke.
This is Kawayoke's message: "Realize that you have many good points despite your appearance."
Kawayoke's story received a huge response from women who say they're struggling in an image-conscious society.
Kayo Takami, who runs a beauty parlor, was one of the people touched by Kawayoke's story.
"I can understand people thinking that external beauty is important or that they want to be beautiful. But I think what really matters is the effort people put in to make themselves look good," says Takami.
In the book, there's also the story of a 24-year-old man. His experiences drew the biggest response from readers.
Yuki Ishida, a graduate school student, has a congenital disease that affected bone and cartilage growth.
He says people have made nasty comments to him since he was little.
"They said they didn't want to be around a weird-looking person like me, and things like that."
But Ishida's parents raised him like any other child.
They never hesitated to take him to pools or amusement parks.
Ishida said that he once got angry at his mother about his appearance. But he says that what she told him has always given him strength: "I'm glad you were born that way. The appearance is part of you."
"What she said seemed to make sense somewhere inside me," says Ishida.
At high school, Ishida changed his old habits and pushed himself forward. He dedicated himself to table tennis. He also started to make a lot of friends.
"I decided to change my behavior, instead of worrying about my appearance, which I couldn't change anyway," he says.
Ishida says everyone he meets helps him grow.
This is his message: "Focus on the things you can change, instead of the things you can't."
These words had a deep impact on a woman in her 50s.
She's a single mother. She went to live at a relative's house after she got divorced, but was subjected to violence. Now she lives in hiding with her daughter.
"I thought my life was over. I wanted to kill myself," she says.
Her daughter has severe autism. It's always been a struggle to communicate.
The single mother couldn't stop worrying about the future. It was then that she found the book online.
Ishida's message touched her.
"I was obsessed with the negative side of my daughter's disorder, so I kept on scolding her and trying to change her. I realized that having a disorder doesn't mean she has no good virtues. I want to try and develop her good points," she says.
She takes her daughter shopping.
She let her daughter try to pay and put the things in a bag -- tasks she'd always thought were too difficult for her. She wants to help her daughter do even more things.
"This disorder is part of my child. All I hope for is that we find a little piece of happiness," she says.
A non-profit that helps people with similar struggles in life helped publish the book.
They say the response has been much larger than they'd expected.
"This book doesn't just have great advice for people struggling with their appearance, but also for those who are facing problems that aren't visible from the outside. It can help anyone who feels that life is sometimes too hard," says Hiroko Togawa of My Face, My Style.
These stories could be a reminder for us not to judge a book by its cover and to see what similarities we all share inside our own pages of life.