Last year when sales of marijuana became legal in Canada and California, these made big headlines in Japan, where it is treated the same as dangerous narcotics.
One of the most outspoken proponents of pot in Japan is actress Saya Takagi.
Two years ago, Takagi, now 56, was found guilty of possession of marijuana. She received a suspended sentence. She does not appear to be the least bit contrite, however, and recently began tweeting on a daily basis the mantra: "Pot! Pot! Pot! It should be as popular here as tapioca!"
Last year, the volume of tapioca imports grew twenty-fold over 2017.
Sending out twitter messages is by no means the only way Takagi indulges in her passion for locoweed. Last July she flew to Tokyo from Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, to speak before a paying audience in the Ryogoku district.
"I paid 1,500 yen admission, with a drink included," one of the participants told the reporter, adding that while only 30 seats were provided, the room quickly filled up with a standing-room-only crowd.
"Did anything change after your arrest?" a participant asked.
"If it had been 15 or 20 years ago, perhaps, I think the public would have reacted toward me in a much colder manner," Takagi, dressed in a yukata (summer kimono), replied. "Now, more members of the younger generation have had the experience of smoking marijuana. Nobody admits it outright, but I suppose quite a large number of Japanese are smoking it. And they, among others, have been giving me support."
Earlier this year, another showbiz figure, Pierre Taki, was arrested for cocaine use, and distribution of his tunes via the Denki Groove music service was halted.
"But even when Yosui Inoue was arrested for marijuana possession in 1977, it didn't come to anything, Takagi said. "He just experimented with it. So the response of the law depends on the degree of the violation."
Inoue received an 8-month suspended prison sentence.
"So the question is, when does it get to the point that one's own violation can be treated as serious?" she asked rhetorically.
Then a skeptic in the audience asked, "Are you saying that no legal controls are needed for any kind of drug?" to which Takagi replied, "Dalton Trumbo, who produced the screenplay for 'Roman Holiday,' was supposedly high on amphetamines while he wrote it. And Walt Disney was said to have loved to drop LSD. So I say individuals should be free to use anything they want, even if they die from it. Banning a substance just makes people want to use it all the more."
She continued, "Previously a staff member at a major company was busted for marijuana possession; but his employer did not dismiss him outright. He was allowed to keep the same position, and as all his coworkers held him in warm regard, he continued to do the job. Despite his conviction, he was treated with deference!"
Afterwards, Takagi was asked about the difference between the internet and television, since marijuana users tend to be demonized on the latter.
"I've been ostracized from television," she replied. "So I try to work at the grass roots level via the internet or at small speaking engagements like yesterday's."
And if somebody queries, "Are you still smoking pot?" Takagi has a standard brushoff, which is to reply, "You've got to be nuts to ask me that."© Japan Today