24 December 2018

Visualising the Effects of Child Abuse in Japan

24 December 2018 - Written by PhMuseum

In her work Internal Notebook, Japanese photographer Miki Hasegawa interviews child abuse victims, captures their portraits, and collates various materials that detail their emotional pain and invisible suffering.

In March 2016, the Japanese Academy of Pediatrics announced that they estimated 350 children across the country died due to abuse. According to the Ministry of Health, Education, and Welfare’s tally, roughly 90 children per year die due to abuse, including forced double suicide. So 260 children’s deaths are being overlooked. 

This girl, who experienced violence and abusive speech in the home from the age of 3, is suffering hearing loss as an aftereffect. This boy’s younger brother was killed by their father when he was five, and he continued to suffer physical abuse after that. When this girl was in the second grade, she was left to live alone with only a 10,000-Yen note, with no water or electricity supply, and she personally requested help from Child Services.

The men and women who I met told me: “I wasn’t left with any large, visible scars or bruises. The physical violence and abusive language I experienced for many years, the mental control, the sexual abuse, the negation of my individuality, and the neglect, aren’t visible, but they leave major scars which don’t go away. It’s hard to take, but other people can’t see this pain.” They suffer depression, self-harm, dissociation, panic attacks, PTSD, and other ailments, but one cannot see these injuries unless one actively looks for them. And they have written in notebooks about their hard-to-understand emotional pain.

Internal Notebook is a notebook of the emotional cries of children raised in abusive homes. I have taken portraits of them, along with the diaries and notebooks they have kept, and tried to show what their parents were like by arranging their childhood photographs and important possessions that evoke memories of those days. It seemed to me that their parents were no different from the rest of us in thinking that we were normal parents.

The people here do not only feel hatred and resentment toward their parents. There are those who feel anger at themselves, unchangeable sadness, and even question whether they must forgive their parents as they desperately keep themselves alive. So we can see that the ones who tormented them were not just their parents but other adults in society as well.

Words and Pictures by Miki Hasegawa.


Miki Hasegawa (b. 1973) is a Japanese photographer and visual storyteller. In recent years, her work has been focused on expressing hidden pain and exploring what maternal love is while dealing with the social issues facing Japanese women and children. Follow her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

Selected by


Reading time

4 minutes

Support PhMuseum Journalism

Since 2012 PhMuseum's articles have always been free and without ads. Every year we work to keep you informed and invite you to discover the work of hundreds of photographers. If you enjoy reading us, this can be a nice way to give back and support our independent organisation, granting us more means to increase the quality and number of contents. Thank you!