TOKYO -- A few brush strokes on the round, swollen skintone canvas, and soon a colorful painting appears. As a precious memory of their pregnancy, mothers-to-be are lifting their shirts for artists to paint a cute picture on their bellies, as a blessing for safe delivery and the healthy growth of their baby.
Artist Tomoka Tome, 26, is one such artist. In 2008, she participated in an international body paint tournament in the United States and began painting professionally in Japan the following year. She is usually at her studio in Tokyo, but also travels to Hokkaido, Kyoto Prefecture and other regions.
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Tome has painted the bellies of more than 300 pregnant women so far. Typical motifs include healthy babies and flower petals, which are done in soft brush strokes. She uses special pigments for watercolor painting, which do not harm pregnant women's skin. Each work takes her about 30 minutes to finish.
"I put thought into each brush stroke. I want my work to be an opportunity to deepen the family bond," Tome said.
Sachie Yano, 36, who visited Tome's studio with her husband from Kofu, will name their first daughter Shiki, which means four seasons. She designed a picture with a theme of changing landscapes.
"When my baby grows up, I want to show her a picture of this painting and tell her, 'You were blessed even before you were born,'" Yano said as she gently stroked her belly.