MY BEST FRIEND
AT THE HOSPITAL
For NPO Shine On ! Kids
Planning, Graphic Design
In 2016, Konoe was in charge of a project to design and produce a photo book as part of the Therapy Dog promotion and awareness-raising activities of the non-profit organization "Shine on Kids".
Therapy dogs are dogs that are professionally trained to give love and comfort to stressed people.
They patrol each ward of the hospital, getting petted, playing, and sometimes sleeping with people. They provide 'emotional care' that only dogs have to offer. Children in particular love animals, and research has shown that this cuddling with animals has the effect of easing stress and cheering them up. For example, children are less likely to cry if they are with a therapy dog, or they happily walk into the operating theatre to have surgery.
Therapy dogs originated in the USA, where many had already been introduced. However in Japan, there were only two dogs, Bailey and Yogi.
A talk show to celebrate the publication. It was hosted by radio personality Rachel Chan.
Shine On! Kids has been promoting the awareness and effectiveness of therapy dogs. They also held fundraising events. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, a project to create a 'photo book' of therapy dogs was brought up and crowdfunding was used to raise funds for the production.
Konoe accepted the request instantly since he loves dogs and has been involved in many charity activities in the past. However, a photo collection of just two dogs, and only of the same breed, would be tough.
The idea was to take photographs of the children in the paediatric ward with the therapy dogs. However, these are children who are seriously ill and have been hospitalised for a long time, so it is a very sensitive issue, not only for the children themselves, but also for their families. Fortunately, Shine On! Kids and their handlers explained their plans in a sincere manner and were able to gain the approval of the families.
The next issue was: is it possible to create a photo book with just photos of children? By this we mean that the photos should be child-like and endearing, but some children are in wheelchairs, and some have difficulty even holding up a camera. Also, a charming photo of a therapy dog is not enough to convey the message we wish to convey. Portraying the reality of the paediatric ward and the children are crucial to show the need for therapy dogs.
The first person who came to Konoe's mind was photographer Kirishima Roland. Mr. Kirishima is Konoe's colleague who has participated in symposia and other activities with Konoe to preserve traditional Japanese culture. When we asked him to take photographs, he kindly agreed.
Furthermore, the biggest dog person around Konoe was the playwright Bun'o Fujisawa. Konoe was the artistic director of one of Mr. Fujisawa's plays, and consulted with him from the planning stage. The photo book was designed by Kumiko Hitomi. She worked with Konoe on the Fujisawa reading theatre pamphlet.
The shoot took place at two different hospitals with ten children.
They were very excited to touch a SLR camera for the first time. Some children struggled with the weight of the camera and had to be in chairs, while others liked the burst mode so much that they kept pressing the shutter button...
Among the 1,000 photos taken, there were so many astonishing and lively photos that instantly made this project a success.
The title was decided to be "MY BEST FRIEND AT THE HOSPITAL" because to the children, therapy dogs are not just "dogs" but friends who help them fight diseases together.
The proceeds from this project will be used to introduce Therapy Dogs to Shine On! Kids' activities. Bailey retired in 2018 after serving for eight years at Kanagawa Children's Medical Center. Annie took her place. Yogi is still working at the Shizuoka Children's Hospital. And in 2019, the Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Medical Center decided to introduce its third therapy dog in Japan, Ivy.
Shine on Kids is a Japanese non-profit organization founded in 2006 by an American couple living in Tokyo who lost their two-year-old son Tyler to pediatric cancer. The organization provides support to children battling pediatric cancer and other illnesses, as well as their families.
All of us at curioswitch sincerely hope that the smiles on children's faces will grow, their families will be healed, and the need for therapy dogs will be understood by more hospitals.
Photo: Children at Shizuoka Children's Hospital & Kanagawa Children's Medical Center, Rawland Kirishima & Tadahiro Konoe
Photography Instructor: Kodomo Nakamura
Text: Bun-oh Fujisawa
Art Direction & Graphic Design: Kumiko Hitomi
Creative Director: Tadahiro Konoe
Production Manager: Shinichi Kochiyama
Client: Shine On! Kids - http://sokids.org/ja/