Japanese folk-singer and committed environmentalist. Tokiko Kato, whose singing career spans 40 years, is sometimes called ’the Japanese Joan Baez'. She first became interested in the environment in 1972, the year of the groundbreaking Stockholm Conference, when she gave birth to her first child.
“I learned that there was a risk that PCBs could accumulate in a baby from its mother’s milk”, she says. “This made me realise the terrible situation when pollution can affect people’s precious lives, without their knowing it.”
In 1965, while still a student she won an amateur competition and launched her career, winning the Great Record Prize for a new singer at the Japan Record Grand Prix the next year. She has recorded many hits, and has received a Chevalier Medal for Culture from the French Government.
She has become equally well known as an environmentalist, acting both as a Councillor and Panda Ambassador for WWF Japan, and as a UNEP special envoy. During widespread travels she has been shocked by “the loss of forests in Thailand and Indonesia, the alarming desiccation of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and many other examples of ecological destruction ñ all due to the overwhelming power we now have at our fingertips.”
She was encouraged, however to find that “communities in Fiji and Tonga kept their traditional way of life, planting mangroves and building a wall – using sand and coral – to protect their land from cyclones.”
She adds: “For us to be sustainable, we must respect and revive local wisdom”. This, she believes, also applies to music. She has recorded traditional songs of the Ainu – the indigenous people of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, – and says: “It is very important to inherit the wisdom and abilities human beings have developed for ages.”
Source UNEP Our Planet magazine.
Tokiko Kato UNEP Special Envoy Global Environment Centre Foundation 2-110, Ryokuchikoen, Tsurumi-ku Osaka 538 0036 "Japan