The phone is ringing at the crack of dawn. It’s an expectant mother. Her contractions have begun. Sakamoto shows the woman into her midwife center. With her small build, she begins to massage the woman’s body. She sooths her pain and checks on the condition of the baby in the womb with her hands. The woman, who is giving birth for the first time, appears to have regained her composure. Shortly afterwards, expectant mothers and mothers of newborns start to arrive at the midwife center. The phone is always ringing. Sakamoto kindly listens to the concerns of the women and responds accordingly. She handles everything in a thorough manner.

In preparation for other women who are expected to give birth very soon, other midwives arrive one after the other, making a total of four midwives at the center. It is now night-time, and labor has begun for the first woman who came in. The soon-to-be father comforts his wife in the delivery room. In between instructions and words of encouragement from the midwife, the women smile cheerfully. Four hours later, after midnight, a beautiful baby girl is born. With its lively eyes, the baby begins to gaze at the world, which is completely unfamiliar. Two more babies were born the following day.

Sakamoto’s career began as a live-in dental assistant. This was during World War II in Osaka. While working there, she became certified as a nurse as well as a midwife. These were certifications that would last a lifetime. Every year, on the anniversary of the death of the wife of the family she worked for, she sends the family sonaemeno (ritual offerings). This spring, her husband, who she had struggled to take care of, passed away. She feels at peace because she did all that she could do. At the Sakamoto Birth Center, women who want to have a safe and calm childbirth, are greeted with smiles. Wonderful relationships between parents and children are born here.

Fujie Sakamoto

Sakamoto was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1924. After World War II, she worked at the Kamihaya village office as a public health nurse and established a midwife center. In 1997, she moved her midwife center to Tanabe City. In 2000, Sakamoto received the Medal with Yellow Ribbon.
Cooperation: Kazuyo Kamiya; Akie Nakata, Osamu Nakata and Ayume Nakata and; the mothers in Tanabe City and their babies

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)