Aya Omiya was only 12 years old when she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. She was 17 when she died.

The dieting began in June 1995, according to her mother, Kazuko, shortly after Aya entered her final year in elementary school. At nearly 160 cm, Aya was tall for a sixth-grader, and her weight was right on the border of average, occasionally going over. But this, her mother said, never seemed to bother her.

"To tell you the truth, I can't be sure of the exact reason for her desire to lose weight," says Kazuko, "but her homeroom teacher and the class leader were both very slim. She might have felt that she had to lose weight to be accepted by her classmates."