Yuki was born with Down syndrome and grew up in a children’s home. Three years ago, he started practicing the skills required to live independently, and last month he turned 26. He has received formal training to become a professional clown, honed his skills, and now participates in a variety of events and performances. For almost 19 years now, Kobe City Catholics Fumiko Takiguchi, 71, and her husband Yozo, 63, have acted as Yuki’s “weekend foster parents.” Once or twice each month, they and others in this role take in children who cannot live with their own parents, spending time together in normal family life. The story of the ‘extended’ Takiguchi family from their first meeting until the present is told in a book published this year, called 130 Video Tapes: 17 Years of Weekend Foster Parenthood. It was 1994 when Fumiko and Yozo became Yuki’s weekend foster parents. They got the idea from a newspaper article published in a daily paper. Fumiko, then a nursery school teacher, had lost a child, which was stillborn. Yozo worked in the physical therapy room at a local hospital. He says, “my wife was serious about wanting to become a foster parent, but all I felt at the time was a mild interest in perhaps filming Yuki’s development as a part of my home video hobby.” Yuki was seven the first time he went for an overnight stay with the Takiguchis. “In one book I read to Yuki that night, there was a scene with a baby whose mother cradled him in her arms and gave him a bath. Yuki’s Down syndrome prevented him from speaking effectively, but he pointed at the mother in the picture and then at me, and next pointed at the baby in the picture, and then at himself,” Fumiko recalls. When there were institutional or school events for Yuki, Fumiko and Yozo would attend as Yuki’s guardians. They also often packed lunches and went along with him to the zoo or aquarium. Sometimes, the three would attend Sunday Mass together at the Takiguchis’ church. Throughout these many years together, Yozo shot 130 tapes of home video footage. “To Yuki, I think I was always a person who would do anything he asked, a sort of Doraemon,” Yozo said, referring to a popular anime in which a robotic cat from the future produces amazing tools to help the young protagonist out of a tight spot. “But my wife is really ‘mom’ to him,” he continued. There are believed to be 40,000 children throughout Japan who, due to one circumstance or another, cannot live with their real parents.
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