• Kyodo

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The city of Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture, has bowed to public pressure and decided to hand back a photography award that it retracted when it emerged the subject had committed suicide.

The city stripped the winning photographer of his award on Monday because he had unwittingly submitted a photo featuring a dancing and smiling 13-year-old Rima Kasai, who later took her own life.

Kuroishi Mayor Ken Takahi told a news conference on Wednesday: “We would like to deeply apologize to her bereaved family.”

After the award was withdrawn, Kasai’s family released both her name and the award-winning image in the hope it would bring attention to the issue of bullying, saying they want people to see their daughter smiling.

The photo was taken in Kuroishi on Aug. 15, 10 days before Kasai jumped to her death from a train platform. The girl had left a suicide note asking that her tormentors never bully again.

Unaware of the girl’s fate, the photographer later submitted his photo to a contest linked to the Kuroishi Yosare festival.

Despite the family giving its consent to the award, the contest’s executive committee withdrew the mayor’s prize after internal protests.

Kasai committed suicide while in her second year of junior high school. It is understood she had been bullied by her classmates via a messaging app for more than a year before her death.

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