The Japanese medical imaging and modeling company Fasotec, based in Chiba, has partnered with a women's health clinic in Ebisu called Hiro-o Ladies, which, honestly, sounds like the Japanese version of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but let's come back to them.
Fasotec and Hiroo Ladies have launched Tenshi no Katachi, the Shape of an Angel, a service that transforms ultrasound or MRI imagery into a 3D printed resin model of the in utero fetus--and the mother's torso.
It still looks wild and unsettling, but also a helluvalot better than the 3-D printed ultrasound blobs that were supposedly going to start coming out of England a few years ago. The resin really makes it.
But it's also odd, because Fasotec only recommends doing the 3-D printing during the 9th month of pregnancy, because before then, the little monkey looks too much like an alien?
[Japanese women are pregnant for ten months, they say, which is really just ingrained racial exceptionalism, but mostly just their way of counting weeks and months. Japanese folks are as human as the rest of us. Except let's talk about their babies' tails and their blue spots on their butts sometime, hmm? Anyway.]
The Tenshi no Tchotchke takes a little while to produce, and probably won't arrive before the kid itself does, so basically, it's 100,000 yen [plus the cost of imaging, which is not included] for a memento. A push present/souvenir of being pregnant. Which could have a slightly longer sentimental life than an ultrasound print, right?
They also come in cellphone strap dangle size, which, honestly, at that size, how can you even know it's your kid? Anyway, the Fasotec guy says so far, three of Hiroo Ladies' ladies have immortalized their pregnancies in two-tone acrylic.
Now about Hiroo Ladies. Their website says that in addition to prenatal care and breast cancer screening, the clinic also provides "bridal checks." Now, my firsthand knowledge of the Japanese OB/GYN system is admittedly zilch. But in my 28+ year relationship with Japan, the depth and persistence and WTF-ness of the country's ingrained sexism has never failed to stun me.
So even though a quick search seems to reveal that women in Japan go to the gynecologist less regularly than in the US, and that a "bridal check" is basically an excuse for a standard health and fertility checkup [with an STD screen], I don't know if I'm buying it. I mean, if it's about STDs, is there a "groom check" too? The answer seems to be, of course not. So until I can find anything more definitive, I'm going to assume that in 2012, though they have evolved into a less anachronistically jarring form, Japanese women are still expected to undergo virginity screenings before they get married. Please tell me I'm wrong.
Print a 3D model of your unborn baby with the 'Shape of an angel' service [diginfo.tv, also youtube via theverge, thanks dt reader rolf]
Tenshi no Katachi | Fasotec [biotexture.com/mother]