Miki Hasegawa on Child Abuse in Japan

Miki Hasegawa


Initially made in an artist edition of 66 at the Photobook as an Object Workshop at Reminders Photography Stronghold in 2015, Miki Hasegawa's Internal Notebook earned the Special Mention at the 2017 PhotoBoox Award. From their jury statement:

A book not easy to digest but nonetheless very significant. We found it remarkable how she tells the stories in such a respectful, delicate way.

Please read our interview with Miki below, and order a copy of the BOOK or the SPECIAL EDITION in our store!

The book was shortlisted for les Rencontres d' Arles 2019; it is the winner of the 1st Centro de la Imagen Photobook Award 2019, Lima, Perù; it also won Best Photography Book of the Year 2020 at POY77.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, Miki!

I am a photographer based in Japan. After finishing my college, I worked as an architect for a house builder. After getting married and having a child, I became interested in expressing something through photography. My current interests are on women and children’s problems. I try to visualise invisible problems in society.


Internal Notebook

Why did you undertake a project that deals with child abuse?

In Japan, we are still trapped in the myth of motherhood: once a woman gives a birth to a child, she would surely become very motherly, devote everything to her child, and become a wonderful mother. If it happens to be abusive, she would be seen as an absurd person missing maternity, someone different, and would be reported sensationally and take a fierce bashing. Yet, society would forget about it as it is someone else’s problem. After I had my daughter, I became very anxious that I would possibly abuse my own child. I didn’t feel I had motherly feelings, I couldn’t nurse my child very well either. The first thing I did when my baby kept on crying was to shut the window. I was scared that my neighbours would discover that I was not a good mother.

I came to realise that child abuse is not committed by some unusual parents. But it can happen to anyone under certain circumstances. Then, I wanted to know what exactly abuse is, what kind of difficulties abused children have to face. I wanted to hear from them directly. It was a necessary act for me, not to become an abusive mother myself.

Internal Notebook

How did you approach the people portrayed in your project, and are you still in touch with them?

I have looked for the ones who suffered abuse in the past and talk about that matter openly on weblogs, websites or social media. I contacted them, explained the intention of my photo project, and asked them if I could interview them. I asked them if we could meet each other at first, and I show them my dummy book I was working on. This helped them to deepen their understanding in my project and encouraged them to collaborate. Also, some participants saw my project on abuse on my website and they contacted me.

Yes, I am. When I exhibit this project, and it is published in a magazine, a newspaper, internet, I always contact them. I saw them very recently.


What do you want to achieve?

I hope that anyone will be able to think of child abuse as their own problem more sincerely. I don’t want them to feel that they know about the problem while they only know about it through news, without any involvement. I want them to think seriously and face the problem: What does it do to someone when they are abused? Why one cannot help being abusive? Abuse is not a personal problem but a social one. I hope that people will be able to notice suppressed voices of children crying for help, voices of their parents, and eventually they become more able to take action.


What has the response to the work been?

I still need to try harder if I want to reach out further to present the problem of abuse to Japanese society. But, my project gives the chance to those visiting my exhibitions to reflect on abuse. One of the abuse victims who came to the exhibition told me “I found out that I was not the only one, that there are people trying to do something about the problem through your exhibition.” Three of my models met each other at my exhibition and hit it off well. They founded a group and started to organise lectures on abuse and so on. I find this is really great.


What was the reason why you decided to transform your photographic project into a book?

Child abuse leaves invisible scars. By presenting my project as a book, it would visualise the invisible scars. The book would give a chance to a viewer to think deep how they can understand the problem, or even experience it, I thought. By flipping the pages of the book, one can hear someone’s scream. It’s up to them whether to look at more pages of the book or to stop. Even if they decided not to look at any more, it still leaves them an experience of making a decision not to see/read about abuse. My book has complicated layers of images, which do not present the problem of abuse too obviously. This complicated structure of the book show the complexity of the problem of abuse, and it challenges the viewer to understand each layer to find out the stories behind. A viewer spontaneously takes a book in her hand, feel the weight and the texture of the paper, and they will relate themselves to the story. A book can do all this, I thought.


Internal Notebook

What is the meaning of the multiple inserts, why are they important?

These inserts are the replicas of photo albums, diaries, or notes by the models. They hardly told anyone else of their suffering ever since the abuse started. Instead, they let their suffering out in those notes. These diaries or notes can express the pain no one could understand to the readers. Childhood photo albums are really important, for they are the only evidence that show the time when the victims were suffering from abuse. Yet, a viewer will never be able to know that the photo albums belong to abusive parents just by seeing them. These multiple inserts are the important parts of the photobook to make the viewer think what they are really about.


Do you work on other projects, which ones?

I am working on several new projects. For one of them, I sought collaboration from a self-help group of victims of sexual abuse. I am learning from them about the reality and pain of sexual abuse. I am also researching on the situations and treatments of the abusers. I hope to grow this project so it can present the experiences of the victims and abusers, how the general public ignores the problem of sexual abuse, how Japanese society is still indifferent to the problem, and the judicial problem.

For another project, I am interviewing on bioethics. I am researching on the tenacity to blood relationship in Japan, decision making to give birth or not to give birth, adoptions, fertility treatment, abortion, genome editing, euthanasia, death with dignity and right to die.

I will also continue working on abuse. While I stay active to promote my “Internal Notebook” so it can reach widely, I would like to work on visualising the abused children’s voices with renewed motivation. I hope that my project can trigger our society to hear the suffering children sincerely.

Translation by Miyuki Okuyama







Internal Notebook











Internal Notebook







Internal Notebook






虐待の問題に関しても、引き続きプロジェクトを行っていく予定です。「Internal Notebook」をより多くの方々に見て頂く活動をしながら、新たに、子ども自身の声を可視化していきたいと思っています。今現在、しんどい思いをしている子どもの声をきちんと聴く社会になるきっかけのひとつになるようなプロジェクトにしたいです。


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