Nagano homemaker Kaoru Kobayashi was overjoyed to receive a unique memento recently - a stuffed bear made with two onesies worn by her now 4-year-old daughter when she was a newborn.
The 25-centimeter doll features the bee motif and floral patterns from the suits, and even retains some tiny fuzz balls that formed on the onesies as they were worn down, stirring Kobayashi's fond memories of that time.
Several months before, Kobayashi sent the two suits to "Rompers Bear," a business that transforms customers' onesies into stuffed bears.
"I wanted to keep the onesies because they're a reminder of good past days for me and my daughter," said Kobayashi, 41. "Now that they're in the form of a doll, I can put it anywhere at home and enjoy seeing it whenever I want."
Many people are being drawn to such services, transforming their children's baby clothes into stuffed dolls or reducing old school uniforms to miniatures. Customers for such services likely want to display these keepsakes rather than putting them into storage.
The idea of the "rompers bear" came from Kayoko Watanabe, 42, a company president in Tokyo. Watanabe couldn't bring herself to throw away the baby clothes of her son, now 4, so she thought about how to change them into something she could display. She decided on a bear and began providing Rompers Bear services commercially last autumn.
"Mothers sometimes come up against a brick wall while rearing their children. When we see our rompers bear, we can feel grateful for our children's growth and proud of our efforts in raising them so far," Watanabe said.
The service has become popular via word of mouth. Watanabe has so far received orders for 130 dolls. The service was also made available at the Isetan Shinjuku department store in Tokyo and JR Kyoto Isetan department store in Kyoto in October. One doll costs ¥12,800 plus tax.
Miniform, a company in Gifu, uses the fabric, buttons and ribbons of kindergarten and school uniforms to make miniature versions that look exactly like the originals. The service has become very popular, with three designers handling about 1,000 orders a year.
The small uniforms are about 35 centimeters tall when they are on hangers, and are priced from ¥14,800 plus tax.
In 2012, the company also began making miniature school uniforms for two popular stuffed bears sold at Tokyo DisneySea. Customers send the stuffed bears and school uniforms to the company for the service.
There is also a service that makes miniatures of randoseru school backpacks.
However, these reform services are quite expensive and take a long time as the process requires extensive work by hand.
For do-it-yourself lovers, Osaka bag wholesaler Kokuho, Inc. sells a set of tools and materials that enable customers to reduce a school backpack to a 13-centimeter-tall version by themselves. The set sells for ¥3,980 plus tax. The miniature version can be made with scissors and a hammer, and it's something you can do with your child, according to the company.
"I think more and more parents want to fully enjoy raising their children as they have children later in life or have fewer children," said Etsuko Wakita, an executive researcher of Kosodate Kazoku Kenkyusho, a research institute of Hakuhodo Inc. that examines the environment surrounding families with children.
Watanabe also said, "If they have keepsakes or mementos of their children's growth altered so they can be kept close at hand, these items give them more opportunities to start a conversation with their children, other family members and friends, and raising their children can be more enjoyable."