In the midst of the health trend and its accompanying natural product craze, kanpō has been the subject of much attention. Although usually seen as complicated and a pain to prepare, here we present in detail an example of a simple life with kanpō. We invite you to turn your thoughts to your health and try out this surprisingly simple kanpō life that is gentle on both the body and the soul.
In gathering material for this interview we went to the Nihondō Kanpō Boutique—how was it?
Actually, I was already familiar with Nihondō…. I once tried to make an appointment for a kanpō counseling session. But at the time I couldn’t fit it into my schedule, so I gave up. So I really wanted to spend more time talking in depth with the people working there, you know? I’m extremely interested in things like Eastern medicine and kanpō, and I think it would be reassuring if I had an adviser I could talk honestly with about how I’m feeling.
Just out of curiosity, what sorts of things were you planning on discussing at that time?
This last year or so especially, it’s gotten harder to recover from fatigue…. I was thinking of discussing how to make it easier to recover when I’m exhausted, and about how to put my body into a proper rhythm. When my biorhythms get out of sync, things I normally don’t get hung up over tend to leave me feeling down, or my thoughts will drift in a negative direction and I’ll end up getting depressed. I thought maybe I could correct this on my own, so I’ve been drinking herbal tea. The teas I’ve been drinking a lot of lately are chamomile, which improves the condition of your throat and digestive tract, and maté, which helps you lose weight—mostly those two. …To tell the truth, I’m normally a heavy coffee drinker, but I’m told that “coffee lowers your body temperature, so you shouldn’t drink it.” But I can’t give up my beloved coffee, so I decided it would be an improvement if I made one of every five cups of coffee a cup of herbal tea (laugh).
Everywhere you go you hear that “you shouldn’t lower your body temperature,” don’t you?
You really do! I understand the logic behind saying you shouldn’t lower your body temperature. I get it, but in my case, my hands and feet feel cold while the rest of my body feels hot, and I get cravings for ice cream and cold drinks. But although that’s supposed to be what my body wants right then, I know I’m not supposed to lower my body temperature, so I had been forcing myself to drink hot tea. But when I asked a pharmacist about it, he said that “it’s not necessarily good for people who tend to hold in their body’s heat to always keep themselves warm,” which was a relief to hear. I want to trust my “body’s voice”, but even though it’s my own body we’re talking about, it’s hard to tell which is correct—my body’s voice, or the things I hear from others. But this gave me a new sense of the importance of listening to my body’s voice.
Listening to your “body’s voice” is something you tend to forget, isn’t it?
It is. …There were times in the past when I pushed myself too hard and made myself ill. I was ignoring my body when it said it wanted to rest, so of course that’s what happened (chuckle). But once you fall ill, getting back to normal is a real struggle. There are lessons I learned from those times, and now I’m focusing on making it so I can live in as natural and stress-free a way as possible. And with medicine, I’ve started to look for kinds that support my natural capacity to heal…that’s why I’d like to add kanpō to my lifestyle. The ingredients are natural, and I like the idea of having it prepared to match your condition and constitution, all while you’re discussing things with an expert.
It looked like the pharmacist you were talking with was really engaged in the discussion.
Uh-huh (laugh). But there’s a lot to kanpō, and I might be in trouble if I get too hooked on it. …I have a side of me that gets too immersed in things. When I have to get up early for work and I don’t have any time to sleep, I’ll suddenly remember things in the middle of the night and get up to do something like prepare fish stock (laugh).
I know what you mean! I hear that’s a common trait among stubborn people!
Ah, that might be it (laugh). So with kanpō, I think I’ll have to make sure I don’t get too hooked on it so I can keep at it in a relaxed way that matches my pace.
By the way, what do you think of men who are interested in kanpō?
I can’t recall meeting many men who take kanpō. But that kind of man might be a good match. On my own, I might forget or stop somewhere along the way, so having someone who would follow the same kanpō routines with me might be nice. Plus someone who takes good care of his body is far more reassuring than someone who doesn’t.
Is there anything in your daily life that you’re paying particular attention to?
I suppose just being as active as I can, and paying attention to what I eat. In the last four or five years I’ve taken up cooking, and I have more chances now to prepare my own meals. I specialize in boiled foods…mostly Japanese dishes. That, and recently on Wednesdays I’ve been making a lunch to take to work. Having to make a lunch every day is no easy task, but I can handle once a week. I start preparing the dishes from the night before, and it’s fun to do. Also, if I go out to eat I always eat too much, but I don’t have to worry about the ingredients when I make my own lunch, and I like that I can restrict how much I have.
Do you worry about dieting and things like that?
All the time. I’ve been running for the about the last eight years now. I rather enjoy it. One of the nice things about running is that it lets me think about a lot of different things. In my case, when I’m thinking about ideas for lyrics or concerts, 40 or 50 minutes goes by just like that. Working up a sweat also clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed, so I think this might just be the exercise for me. These days I’ve been wanting to test myself and see how far I can run…I’d actually like to run a half-marathon. And then eventually, I think I’d like to run in the Honolulu Marathon…. Finishing a marathon seems like it would give you a sense of achievement, doesn’t it? In our line of work, for intstance there’s satisfaction in finishing an album, but you constantly feel like you have to move on to the next project, and since you don’t have anything that’s set as your goal, the times when you get that sense of achievement are surprisingly few. In that respect, the way a marathon defines a clear start and finish makes it attractive in my mind.
What kind of music do you listen to when you go out for a run?
I listen to my own music, as strange as that sounds (laugh). Usually I listen to “Magic Number” and “Hemisphere”, among others. I think they’re pretty good songs to listen to while running. Also, songs like “Remedy” are nice. It feels good to run to it.
Is there anything outside of work you’d like to challenge yourself to in the future?
Last year I went to Europe for five weeks, and it was more fun than I could imagine. So I’m thinking I’d like to go on another trip alone. …I don’t like dealing with details, so I tend to leave without packing a guidebook and figure things out once I get where I’m going (laugh). I’d like to take the train in Europe to countries I haven’t visited yet, and since I’ve discovered I prefer countries with cooler climates, I’d like to go back before I forget how much fun it was last time. Lately I’ve had too much fun traveling alone, and I’ve been seriously worried that even if I get married, it’d have to be with someone who’d let me go off on trips by myself (laugh).
March 31st is going to be a big day for you, I imagine, as you’ll release your first best-hits album “everywhere”, put on a concert at the Budōkan, and celebrate your 30th birthday. What are your thoughts as far as entering your 30s?
These days, with all the preparations for the concert and the best-hits album going on, probably because I’ve been saying too much that I’m now 30, even though I’m still in my 20s I feel as though I’ve already turned 30 (laugh). For me, the last half of my 20s felt half-finished in places, so I really wanted to hurry up and turn 30. Now that’s changed and I feel surprised that I’m still not in my 30s yet.
(laugh) I think you’ll find your 30s to be a surprisingly fun time.
That’s what I hear (laugh). Among my friends who are the same age as me, I know a lot of women who are looking forward to life after 30. I see it as a time when I can make use of the various experiences I had in my 20s, so there may be a lot for me to look forward to. Also, I have a lot of friends who are in their 30s, and they all tell me, “Once you hit 30 it gets easier.” I’d like to try to find that out for myself. I want to can’t wait to find those “easy parts” of being in my 30s.
That’s a rather bold statement. Have you taken that stance in your recent work?
I think so. In my lyrics, when I was in my teens I feel I intentionally thought about how I could express things in roundabout ways. That’s changed, and these days I guess you could say I’ve been choosing more and more simple, straight words…. Of course each method has its good points, but maybe it’s because becoming an adult means becoming more simple. That’s how I’ve thought about it recently.
Definitely. If you look back at your music, you can see a significant change in your lyrics’ viewpoint. And now for your first best-hits album “everywhere”, you picked out 30 tracks on your own….
I think it comes across as something I can give in place of a business card, something that says, “If you want to know how I’ve pictured Maaya Sakamoto these 15 years, this is it.” The songs I chose include all the tracks that define each period of my career, and in that sense putting together this tracklist was a good opportunity to look back on myself. Since you can feel from the songs the way in each of those periods I was able to honestly come face-to-face with my music and myself, putting my debut song next to my newest songs doesn’t feel out of place when you listen to it, which made me happy.
It’s also impressive that the songs don’t feel old.
Even though they were released at very different times in my career, finding that as an album, it doesn’t feel jarring when you listen to it was a surprise to me, too.
You’re a singer, lyricist, writer, and of course a voice actress…you’re active in quite a number of fields, but what is your goal for the future?
Until now, I’ve had the privilege of doing various types of work, but in my mind, they all feel like one thing. In my mind, it feels that singing is connected to acting, is connected to lyrics, and every part of my work interacts to give me material to express myself. But in my teens my work started to take up more of my time, at times I lost my hold on the balance, and I sometimes worried that there might be difference between the Maaya Sakamoto I pictured and the Maaya Sakamoto everyone else saw. But now it feels like those two pictures are little by little becoming the same…it’s still fuzzy, but I think my vision of what I want to do is getting clearer. So I’m sure that the time up until now was a time of buildup, and the time after now is a time when I take those experiences and feelings I’ve built up and turn them into output.
I see—the “interaction between work” you mentioned sounds just like the philosophy of kanpō.
Ah, how clever of you (laugh).
(laugh) I’m looking forward to seeing what Maaya Sakamoto has in store for us in the future!
Maaya Sakamoto’s Counseling: Prescriptions for the troubled reader
For those who have trouble waking up in the morning: “Magic Number”
This song is like a prescription even for me—it gets me going. When I listen to it in the morning before going to work, I feel ready to take on the day.
For those who need a break from days of neverending exhaustion: “everywhere”
This song is one I wrote last year while traveling alone through Europe, and its theme is happiness. The change of pace and relaxation I gained from that trip made it possible for me to try my hand at composition for the first time. I believe the times when you’re fed up with daily life are the times when it’s really crucial to try something new.
For those who just need a dose of energy: “Platinum”
This is a song I sang when I was 17, so its vibrant imagery and positive, optimistic lyrics about “unlimited possibilites” are striking even to me. I recommend it to anyone who just wants to feel happy.
For those immersed in discovering themselves: “Weathervane”
This is the theme song for my album “Windreader”, and for me, this song is an important one, one where I can see that everything, to include all the time I have lived up until now, has been there so that I could discover this song. …More than stating some conclusion, this song gives you a feeling that you’re still in the middle of your journey, and there’s still a path laid out before you.
For those whose wounds from a lost love won’t heal: “Remedy”
I wrote this song with a theme of natural healing. Doesn’t it seem like the wounds from heartbreak are all the more burdensome because you can’t see them? But just like a scrape goes away on its own, I’m sure your body will eventually heal those scrapes you can’t see as well.
For those who can’t find a single thing to like in themselves: “The Day the Wind Blows”
A song I sang when I was 17, its lyrics read, “I wonder what I should do so I can love myself,” but I still sing it often even today. This song goes with me no matter how old I am, …and for me, this is my eternal theme song.
For those who want to open the next door: “Black Tea”
The end of a love, whether you end it or the other does, is a sad thing, isn’t it? But time won’t wait for you, and in the midst of everything that happens in daily life, you have to press on to the next thing whether you like it or not—these were my feelings when I sang this song. But I’m sure that along the way, as you put everything you have into living your life, you’ll find a wonderful romance waiting for you.