Japan Today



'Eco-actress' Saya Takagi under attack


Actress Saya Takagi, 45, is famous for leading an eco-friendly lifestyle as a naturalist on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. But her activities have come under a barrage of criticism recently and police now patrol around her house following threatening online messages.

Takagi got interested in ecology in 2000 after she moved to Hawaii with her ex-husband. When she returned to Japan, she introduced the idea of an eco-house and self-sufficient lifestyle to Japan. However, she lives in an apartment in Tokyo during the week because she has regular TV programs from Monday to Friday. She returns to Boso only on weekends. Some people call her eco-life a “fake life in the countryside.”

A local says, “I like her because she works in the fields, without make-up. She contributes to the town by introducing it wherever she goes.” But another local says, “I don't see her in town so often. What I see in her fields are women in their 30s. I don't know what they do and where they are from. I feel a bit scared.”

When Takagi called for volunteers on her blog to build an eco-cafe, more than 4,000 critical comments were posted. Some of them said, “Why do you need volunteers for non-profit cafe?” “It's almost an ad calling for slave labor,” and “You should at least pay them some money.” One comment threatened that her house would be torched. Following this message, police started patrolling her neighborhood.

Takagi talks to Shukan Post.

What do you think of the criticism of your calling for volunteers?

I think something is wrong in this society. Why do I have to be threatened just because I asked for volunteers? I can't understand why they call the project 'slave labor' and 'unremunerative work' in a negative way. If I wanted to profit from the cafe, I would open it in central Tokyo. It's just a project to learn how to build a house from professionals.”

You don't live in Boso at all.

Because I currently have regular TV programs on weekdays, I can go back to Boso only on weekends. But I always join in the project as often as I can.

Commuting between Tokyo and Chiba contributes to CO2 emissions, does it not?

Well, some people might think like that. But just criticizing someone is not productive for environmental protection. I know those who expect a perfect eco life think what I'm doing seems imperfect and egoistic. But since I was spending a lot of resources during the bubble economy, this current lifestyle is much more eco for me.

What do you think of local criticism?

Some locals are very kind to me. But others might think an outsider is coming in and grandstanding, which annoys them. As we say, “politics emerges once three people gather.” That's a common thing in a society.”

On July 1, the eco cafe was finally launched without any trouble.(Translated by Taro Fujimoto)

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Ha ha, yet another celebrity and their fake 'eco/green' causes, a la algore and their ilk.

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Ah, a mature actress who isn't afraid of attempting an eco life in this country - which is hardly eco-friendly. And, of course, she strikes fear and jealousy in the hearts and minds of those who can't. Good on her.

Perhaps Japan is at the same stage as the US 20 years ago when eco-friendly actor Ed Begley was called a Kook and a weirdo because he had an electric car and attempted a self-sufficient lifestyle. In Los Angeles.

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I hope Takagi-san doesn't let the undeserved anger from people bother her. It seems to me that the anger is because they can't stand someone having a real purpose in her life and are jealous.

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I got news for y'all. If somebody wanted to live an "eco" lifestyle, becasue they really believed that was the best way, nobody would notice. It's those people that live an "eco" lifestyle and try their best to shove it down other's throats as a morally superior lifestyle that attract the ire of most normal folk trying to get on in their daily lives.

If you wanna live in the woods with a windmill and solar heating and grow your own veggies, more power to ya. Just don't try to convince anyone your better because of it.

A strong need for public approval cloaked in eco moral superiority doesn't impress anyone, lady.

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I think Ms. Takagi should put more effort in building better relationships with the local community that she visits on the weekends, or else she will continue to be seen as a carpet bagging outsider- rather than soliciting for volunteers for a "trendy just for 30something women" eco-cafe, perhaps a community-wide eco/organic foods festival or rice planting event would be better. And she should take the train to Boso- that would do more good for the environment than any single effort by a volunteer.

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even if it is ego, going eco is always the better solution and the more it is done the sooner we can repair the planet

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Crab Theory abounds.

Contempt & ridicule for anyone shining any light outside of the box, even if it's not so strong.

Naysayers start DOING something 'cept whining.

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What I see in her fields are women in their 30s.... I feel a bit scared.

Yakuza, I can understand. Bosozoku, I can understand. But being scared of women in their 30's?

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Takagi is perfectly justified in doing what she is doing. Many people have different ways to do something for the environment, but being perfect in one's own eyes or in those of others doesn't exist. To criticize is so bloody easy. Does that make you feel better? Well, go ahead. This is THE place for it. Eco-conscious people do not have to be hermits - that's the news I got for you. They wish to spread to word, show there are other life styles that might be better than most. I can only support this woman's efforts.

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"Ha ha, yet another celebrity and their fake 'eco/green' causes, a la algore and their ilk".

I have to strongly agree with rjd jr here. Takagi has a nice job in the city earning lots of bucks but on on weekends goes out to her hobby farm to the "green" thing for the weekend (as she is busy with her celeb lifestyle during the week). I seriously doubt her true commitment to her cause.

She's got to earn a dollar, true, but if she wants to be taken seriously by the people in her community then she should really make that her full-time job not just doing it as a hobby.

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She's got to earn a dollar, true, but if she wants to be taken seriously by the people in her community then she should really make that her full-time job not just doing it as a hobby.

What you are saying is that it is better to do nothing than even a little. Apply that thinking across the board, if we cannot commit ourselves 100%, we just do nothing, and nothing will ever change. We leave the problems for the next generation or the one after that.

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No, I'm not saying that Presto. But far too often we see people who supposedly support a cause but only for the attention they can get from it. For a person in her position (I really doubt she is short of a buck), why does she need to have a non-profit cafe where the employees will not get paid?

"But since I was spending a lot of resources during the bubble economy, this current lifestyle is much more eco for me". It seems pretty self-serving to me.

Much like Toyota giving Paul MacCartney a nice eco-car but sending it to him by plane.

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I can understand why some of the locals in Boso might be suspicious of Takagi-san as she is a "celebrity" from Tokyo who is a bit different and apparently, doesn't work closely with the community. I would probably feel the same way. But it is a free country so she can do what she wants even if she lives a somewhat schizophrenic lifestyle.

I found two of her comments to be particularly interesting:

1) "But just criticizing someone is not productive for environmental protection."

I can see the point that she is trying to do something. But her travel back and forth between Tokyo and Boso probably wipes out any good she is doing by introducing a ecologically friendly lifestyle out in the country side. She should probably just try to live that way in Tokyo and save the environmental cost of going back and forth to the country side. Also, if she can be critical of others lifestyle, then others can be critical of hers. Like so many in the environmental debate, she wants to be free of criticism.

2) As we say, “politics emerges once three people gather.” That’s a common thing in a society.”

So true. She should get used to the criticism of the people in her adopted town.

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"What I see in her fields are women in their 30s. I don’t know what they do and where they are from. I feel a bit scared.” Nice to see irrational paranoia isn't reserved for just the wayward gaijin discovered unexpected in rural Japan. They don't seem to like "them city folk" either.

More than anything, this is sad commentary on the virtual inability to grasp the concept of volunteerism in Japan. Rather than something you do just because beneficial in some way to someone besides yourself, volunteering is apparently viewed as something for which one must be paid. That's not volunteering. That's a job. Again, I find myself shaking my head at how far Japanese society has fallen from community-based, community-oriented traditions into this "I am an island unto myself" selfishness that seems to be the bread and butter of modern societies.

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I think we owe it to Takagi to give her the benefit of the doubt. She may not be achieving what YOU think she ought to be achieving. She is trying to do something and the attention she gets while doing so, be it positive or negative, may set people thinking about what they can do themselves.

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Interesting comments... I wonder how people can think that to support your theory one needs to go back in time, kind of follow utopian lifestyle of a hermit? The world never stops evolving, and all of us can innovate on the conditions of the modern world, new scientific achievements, trying to modify the reality with the realistic means. It's a matter of individual choice. I don't see how volunteerism is new to Japan. As far as shinto goes, all holidays are impossible without massive participation from the local community. The other thing is, not too many would care to do something that is not tinted by the patina of tradition:))

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betting you think the plane wasn't flying to london in the first place? must be tough for people to live in your perfect world. rather than dissing her for not being perfect all the time how about just giving a thumbs up for the two days a week she does the right thing. thats a lot more than most of us do.

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Doing something not-for-profit in Japan doesn't seem to set well with some people here. We run a group that does events for new artists. We spend a lot of our personal money putting it together and usually end up well into the red. When we do make money we pay it out to the performers. Yet people always say we should also pay staff and performers. Despite the fact that we are very clear about it being not-for-profit and volunteer based.

The bottom line is that if people want to pitch in on the Eco-Cafe they will. I would see it as a learning opportunity and as a chance to meet and spend time with like minded environmentally friendly people. But those who don't want to join, well... don't. And if you need payment to join, simple... don't join.

Some things are not profit driven. Some things are done for the benefit of others and should be a volunteer driven exercise. Why some people can't wrap their money blinded minds around this is beyond me. Again it is simple. If you believe in the cause, volunteer. If you don't or want to be paid, just don't join. No reason to give her a hard time.

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45? Really? Wow!

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Slave labour? How daft! Slaves, by definition, are coerced... What an ignorant bunch of critics this woman has.

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I reckon on issues like these people fall into 3 broad categories: 1) Those who like to do something positive 2) Those who don't give a monkey's / can't be bothered (=most of us) 3) Those in group 2 who also feel the need to diss people in group 1

I can't see the attraction of being in group 3...

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I think its fnny that this woman gets caled on the carpet for not being as "eco-friendly" as she says she is, and people rise up to defend her anyway. If she really wants to be eco-friendly 24/7, lose the Tokyo Apartment, or find an "eco-friendly" one....

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Didn't the same thing happen to Al Gore and many others. ;)

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Al Gore has a lot bigger carbon footprint and hot gas emission than this woman. She seems pretty honest and down to earth.

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People who don't do anything to make the world a better place criticising someone who is at least trying- that's just messed up. And as for the slave labour thing- that's just ridiculous. She's not making a profit out of it and the workers are volunteers- how on earth is that slave labour? If they didn't want to do it they wouldn't.

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