Takayama Eri is a stylist who also plays active roles in a wide variety of media activities. One of her more recent achievements is the publication of a magazine named ‘Giri Giri Magazine’ in 2012. She currently lives alongside a cat name ‘Neko.’ Takayama-san claims that she never had any interest at all in cats. If that’s true, how did she come to meet with Neko? We interviewed Takayama to learn about the strange relationship between Neko and herself.
Neko, found near the sea
– How did you first encounter Neko?
“I went to a beach in Chiba for a photo shoot. When we got done with the work at the location, one of our staff went ‘Ooh! There’s a little kitty! How cute!’ She had just been born and was really small, but there was no way we could possibly take her back with us. Honestly, I had no interest in animals whatsoever, so I went back to the bus without even looking back. I waited for everybody, but they stayed over by the kitten and made a big fuss over it. I waited and waited, but still they didn’t come back. Eventually, I started to get angry at people. They were being so hypocritical when they said, ‘Oh it’s so cute, but I can’t take it home with me.’ So I told them, “then I will take her home with me!’ So I brought her back to Tokyo.”
ー So, you decided to keep the cat right right then and there?
“Well, I was actually thinking that because there were a lot of cat lovers around me, someone would take her in. I brought her home and the person I was sharing the room with was all for keeping her. Yet, I still didn’t think I could take care of her, so I kept on searching for someone to take her in. In the meantime, I grew fond of her myself. Finally, when I found a friend who might want to have her, I was already thinking that I couldn’t let her go. But when the friend came over, she fell in love with the kitten as well. I couldn’t say that I wanted to keep her myself, but my friend noticed the expression on my face and asked me, ”Do you want to keep her yourself, Eri-chan?’ So that’s how she ended up staying with me.”
ーSo you ended up taking in an abandoned kitten out of your sense of justice – and in reaction to the hypocritical attitudes of people?
“People tell me I intimidate them, but really I’m a sweet person. Of course, I’m aware that I shouldn’t say such thing about myself (laughs). Because I had never had a pet before, everything was a first time for me. I took her to the hospital right away and we decided on her birthday. I may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I imagined it must be like this to have a baby, to become a mother all of a sudden. For the first time, I thought about life. Before I started living with Neiko, I wouldn’t feel a thing watching animal programs on TV. After that, however, I would burst into tears when I saw an emotionally charged scene – such as a cow giving a birth… It seems like taking in Neiko awakened my maternal instinct. My view on life itself has changed.”
ー- Can you tell us about Neko’s character?
“Basically she is friendly, but sometimes she just disappears all of a sudden. People tell me she acts like me. Quite often I find her sleeping in the same body position as me. Some people treat cats as they would to kids, but I think cats are just cats. When I work with kids every so often, I never can treat them as kids. Instead, I talk to them as equal people. They listen to me better that way. So I treat Neiko as just a cat.”
Working for the Cat!
ーDid you notice any changes after starting to live with Neiko?
“My sense of responsibility changed… and so did my daily life altogether. Other than work-related matters, my life is a complete mess (laughs). For example, I can’t change a florescent light and my life skills are generally pretty low. Work and fashion were the only things that mattered to me. But now, Neko will scream if there isn’t any food, and she all inform me when her litter box is full. I used to think only about myself when I was working, but now I think to myself, ‘I have to earn more to feed the cat.’ (laughs) I mean, five years is a long time. I’ve never had a relationship with a guy last that long. The person who wanted to keep Neiko at our house… well we broke up soon after, and Neko ended up staying with me. Now that I think about it, she is the first living thing to stay with me this long other than my own family. Obviously, Neko is always at home. Even though I like being alone, I never am as long as Neko is in the house. But I don’t mind that. I guess we get along pretty well.”
Is cat fashion a “do” or a “don’t”?
ー One recent fashion trend is the wearing of items with a cat-motif. It is probably not because the number of cat lovers is increasing. I’d guess it’s an intentional movement produced by apparel makers who think that ‘cat stuff’ sells well.
“There really are many cat items. But very few are appealing to me. I do a lot of research as part of my job, but I’ve never thought that cat-patterns or cat-printed items are cute. It’s like showing off that you like cats and, again, it’s kind of hypocritical (laughs).”
ーBut look over here, it’s a Hello Kitty pouch that belongs to you. (laughs)
“This was a gift, but I do admit to loving ‘Hello Kitty.’ I am usually not very conscious of what I like. I don’t realize that I like something until someone points it out to me. The same goes for fashion. I was never conscious of my fondness for fashion. I was just wearing what I bought from the different stores I visited. Then one day a friend of mine said that if I like clothes so much, maybe I should become a stylist. That was the first time I ever thought about becoming a stylist. I naturally picked up things that other people wouldn’t, and I guess that was a characteristic necessary for the job.”
ーWhat would you do if a commission came in for you to design clothes with a cat-motif?
“I would try to create something that had never existed before. Something nobody had ever seen. That is something I always try to do for every work theme. Something only I can do. I also try to establish my own image of a girl who would wear the clothes. Going into detail, I imagine the character and the background of the girl. I give the profiles I create to the models who actually wears them, too, and ask them to act like the girl. The recent trends looks shallow to me. Cat-like imagery is just on the surface, like the cat-ears for example. However, I don’t think you can express an actual ‘cat’ that way.”
ーTo you, what is the ‘ideal image’ of a girl?
“A woman with a backbone. Someone who knows herself. I have a girlfriend who works a normal job at an office. She’s not in the fashion world, so she’s quite different from me – her taste in fashion, her hobbies… we have nothing in common. However, she has a strong sense of self, and that is what I like about her. Ms. Nikaidō Fumi, who appeared on the cover of ‘Giri Giri Magazine,’ is also a wonderful person. I am currently contemplating the concept for the next issue, which should come out by the end of December. I don’t think cats will be a theme there either (laughs).”