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Aoi Miyazaki: from TV princess to rescuer of trafficked children

by Edan Corkill

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Miyazaki said she was lucky enough to be taken overseas many times by her parents when she was young, so she has experienced enough not to be “shocked” by much. Still, she says, her experience of talking to fishermen in Greenland and then, a little while later, fishermen in the Maldives was shocking.

“Up until then, the fishermen in Greenland had to go out by dogsled to work, but now they can go by boat, because the ice is melting,” she says. “So they are now able to catch many more fish and they’re like, ‘We’re lucky!’ But in the Maldives, the people are saying, ‘Save us! Save us!’ because their islands are about to disappear under water. The two groups of fishermen are so far apart, but they’re so connected.”

These and other experiences were discussed in a second “Tarinai Peace” book, published in 2007.

Miyazaki’s respect for the environment grew out of another aspect of her upbringing. “My parents used to take us camping all the time,” she says.

She names without hesitation the Nasu highlands in Tochigi Prefecture as an old camping haunt. “We went there often,” she says. “We’d look at the stars and make campfires. I really remember those times well.”

The camping trips also instilled in the young actress a strong sense of family, and in particular, a strong respect for her father.

“When you’re camping, it’s dad who sets up the tent and does the cooking. It’s important that children have the chance to see their father in those situations. It instills in them a respect for their fathers and strengthens the bond between the family.”

It’s tempting to suggest that this respect in turn motivated Miyazaki to get started on her own family early. Last year, she married the actor Sosuke Takaoka (“Crows Zero”), three years her senior. Still, Miyazaki continues to work under her maiden name and maintains a close relationship with her brother. She mentions that the two hope to go camping soon.

Miyazaki says she spends her free time going for drives in her car. “I like driving — and singing while I drive,” she says. She also likes watching old Japanese films.

The actors she most respects at the moment are Keiko Matsuzaka and Tomoko Nakajima, two of the dozens of big names she is now working with on “Atsuhime.”

“There’s a lot to learn from the way they spend their time on the set,” she says. “They’re always very calm and kind to everyone. If you’re going to make something together then that is a really important attitude to have.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Miyazaki is stumped when asked which foreign actors she most respects; she can’t name a single one. Still, she says she would “love to” work on a foreign film, and is keen to try working in English.

Not that she has time for such things at the moment. A starring role in an NHK drama means there is little time for anything else. The 14-month shoot started last August and won’t finish till October (the broadcast ends in December). “I spend most of the day in the studio,” she says. “When you’re inside all day you lose track of the outside world. I’m not photosynthesizing much these days!”

When she does get back out into the sun, though, chances are she will continue in the direction indicated by “Yami no Kodomotachi” — and, if so, Japan might find it has a talented actress with a genuine social conscience to boot. Not that she’s likely to rival Angelina Jolie, but then again, if she can find a way to run in a kimono, who’s to know what she’s capable of?

“Yami no Kodomotachi” opens Aug. 2 at Cinema Rise in Shibuya and will open at other cinemas around the country shortly thereafter; “Atsuhime” screens each Sunday from 8 p.m. on NHK-G, 6 p.m. on NHKS-hi and 10 p.m. on NHKS-2.