Diary of a first visit to Taiji, Japan, a place made famous by the portrayal of dolphin killings in the documentary called THE COVE.
November 26th: Day 1
I am packed and ready to jump in my car and drive the 900 kilometers to the southern island of Shikoku to continue the 3rd leg of my 2nd 1400 kilometer pilgrimage. Like last year, I will do this pilgrimage by foot, visiting 108 sacred temples:
On the way to Shikoku I will make stops in Nagoya to visit a friend and in Kyoto to attend a fighting event.
My first stop is Nagoya.
I got to Nagoya in the evening to meet a Vegan friend for dinner. She said she knew a good Vegan restaurant and there I was: headed to my first Vegan meal. I love meat, but I figured I'd try this Vegan food for my heath. Surprisingly the Vegan food was delicious!!! I couldn't believe it! She then told me that there were many good Vegan restaurants in Japan so a Vegan diet wouldn't be so hard to maintain. I agreed. I felt that if Vegan food tasted this good, I could do it too. Her main reason for turning Vegan was that she is passionately against animal slaughter. I on the other hand wanted to try it for my health. I love animals, and I hate to think about the animals being killed, but I felt it was just a part of the whole cycle of life. So I decided to come to a compromise . . . be Vegan on the weekdays and eat freely on the weekends. I really wasn't sure if I could truly keep a 100% Vegan diet, but I figured it would be better than nothing.
At dinner The Cove came up, and we decided to find an internet cafe to watch the movie together. So we did:
After watching The Cove for the 2nd time my heart hurt. I had a lump in my throat and couldn't believe that human beings could be so cruel. I then Googled Taiji and realized that it wasn't too far away. In fact it was closer for me to go to Taiji than Shikoku:
I then impulsively wrote in my Japanese Blog: " Poor Dolphins!!! The killing has to stop!!!"
I then made my mind up that I was going to make a stop in Taiji after my stop in Kyoto to see for myself what was going on in Taiji. I still planned to do my pilgrimage, but only after I made the stop in Taiji.
There was a change of plans . . .
The pilgrimage can wait . . . Taiji can't.
November 27th: Day 2
I woke up in the morning to head to Kyoto to attend a fighting event. I then opened my blog and couldn't believe what I saw: Many messages all referring to the Taiji issue. Some were messages of support and how grateful they were I was taking the time to go out to Taiji. Some expressed concern about what my objectives were. Some threatened my physical well being, and some even my life. My blood boiled, and although my better judgment told me to ignore them, I posted back a challenge to see me face to face instead of posting on my blog . . . I got no response.
I'm sure these haters were trying to deter me from going to Taiji, but little did they realize that their hostility only raised my interest in seeing the controversy in Taiji with my own eyes.
I didn't know this Taiji issue was so big!!! Some were suggesting I collaborate with Sea Shepherd, and honestly I had never heard of Sea Shepherd before this, so I then began Googling "Sea Shepherd" so I could find out who these people really were. I saw what Sea Shepherd was doing, and I admired their passion for and devotion to saving the ocean and the animals in the ocean. I also loved their ready-to-die spirit in their dangerous quest and felt grateful for what they were doing. I posted my feelings on Facebook about Sea Shepherd, only to once again get bombarded with mail, many objecting and sending me links to the Japanese view of Sea Shepherd.
I first saw the NHK special that gave the Japanese view. It also showed some points in The Cove that were inaccurate and seemed to try to deceive the public:
Then someone sent me a video taken at the cove last year where some Sea Shepherd representatives were verbally abusing some Japanese Whalers:
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. How could this be helping the cause? I saw the verbal abuse as counter productive. I posted on Facebook: "This type of tactics disturbs me. Why are they being so classless? Can someone explain?" and "This kind of tactics would piss me off too. These kinds of people are NOT helping the dolphins."
I then felt myself wondering if Sea Shepherd was a good association to collaborate with. I love what they are doing, but I couldn't stand and watch that kind harassment happen. Maybe there was so much frustration built up by seeing all the killings, but I just couldn't see how harassment would be productive. I also didn't want to in any way support a group that behaves in that way, for some might mistake me for promoting that type of behavior.
Statements like, "Does it turn you on? Does it get you excited? Is that how you treat your family and friends? Give them a little beating? Cut her up a bit? " I personally do not want to participate in tactics like this. In my opinion it's not a way to a solution, but to more conflict. I still wasn't taking sides; I just personally don't like the sarcasm and the way it seems like they are trying to provoke the young men. I also understood that Sea Shepherd representatives would not act in that manner for no reason, so I knew there was so much to the story that I didn't know.
That's when I decided to go in neutral. I decided to hear both sides before passing judgment. Yes, the killing of the dolphins brings tears to my eyes, but how can I truly stand by that while I continue to eat beef, chicken, and pig. I would now go into Taiji INDEPENDENTLY, and I planned to talk to both sides about the problem. In order to make a non-biased decision, I want to go in alone and not tie myself to any side. I want to mingle with both sides and get the opinions from both sides before taking any action. Yamatodamashii isn't just siding for the Japanese, nor is it stopping ALL animal killings. Yamatodamashii is being fair and doing what's right no matter how difficult the task may seem. This is a bigger, more difficult, and a much more delicate situation than I imagined. I would not make a decision until I have looked in to both opinions in depth.
While the humans are bickering, the dolphins are dying! There has got to be a better way than fight. How, I had no clue, but I was willing to give it a shot.
"If there is a will, there's a way!"
November 28th: Day 3
Today all I could think about was the trouble in Taiji. My body was at the fighting event but my mind was in Taiji. I watched the fights, made a speech to close the event, then went out to dinner with the promoters. The whole time I was wondering what Taiji was going to be like. I was uneasy about the trip, wondering how threatening the hunters might be and how insulting Sea Shepherd might be.
Then I remembered that one of my fighting student’s parents was from Wakayama, so I decided to give him a call to see if he knew anyone who could show me around. Since I was going in 100% independently, I wouldn't know my way around or the first thing about where to stay and where to look. Then my student called me and told me about a guy by the name of Lucky who was born and raised in Taiji and is a big fan and would love to show me around. Yes!!!! Also, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I had some kind people contact me and clue me in on some tips about Taiji and where most people stay.
I was doing well with my Vegan diet so far, and ironically I found some Tofu Burgers in the lobby of my hotel which I bought two of and gobbled up in my room.
November 29th: Day 4
I got up at 8 a.m. and packed up for my six hour drive down into the Taiji area. Like before a fight, I was mentally preparing for my mission in Taiji, running all kinds of different possible situations I might encounter in my head and planning how I was going to react best to every situation. I imagined being there when Sea Shepherd was verbally abusing the hunters and stepping in to stop Sea Shepherd from making the situation worse. I imagined the hunters attacking me and me getting physical with them. I also imagined seeing the dolphins getting slaughtered in front of my eyes, and this was the only scenario where I had no idea how I was going to react.
I drove along the coastline passing a white sand beach, Shirahama, and was surprised to see how beautiful Wakayama was! I stopped at some scenic lookouts but never really got to absorb the beauty, for my mind was cluttered with thoughts of dolphins dying mixed with the excitement of getting to Taiji. As I was approaching Taiji the sun began setting and I was awed by the breathtaking sunset God presented to me just as I entered Taiji town. It reminded me about the pilgrimage I do every year in Shikoku, and I wondered if God was telling me that this, like my pilgrimage, is another journey that will change my life.
I finally reached the Charmon Hotel and checked in, only to find out that there were only two consecutive nights vacant, so I reserved the room and wondered where I was going to stay after that.
As I was checking in I noticed a computer left out in the lobby but no one was around. I was completing my check-in when out from the staircase came a beautiful blonde woman wearing all black. My heart raced to a point where I swear the old lady at the front desk could see my chest thumping. Now in a normal situation my heart would have begun thumping because she was so beautiful, but because I was in Taiji, the words "SEA SHEPHERD" like neon lights were flashing in my head, and that's what caused my heart to race.
The beautiful lady gave me a nod of acknowledgment, and I did back, and that's when I made my confirmation that she was a Sea Shepherd! She was wearing a black Sea Shepherd knit cap and a black Sea Shepherd shirt! The pirate mark they use as their logo was also scary, for we all know what pirates do. Did she recognize me? Should I go introduce myself? All kinds of questions ran through my head, but the aggressive image I had of Sea Shepherd from Youtube prevented me from making any contact as I grabbed my bags and quietly slipped into my room.
I then got a call from Lucky, who just got off work, and he asked me if I needed anything. I told him that I wanted him to show me all the spots that I should know since I would be moving solo the next day. He picked me up at my hotel, and he showed me the dolphin training center, the whale museum, the cove, the harbor where the hunters’ boats were parked, and the harbor where they bring the dolphin meat and where they all gather every morning before they set off for the hunt.
The spot that left the biggest impression on me was the cove itself. It was a beautiful cove, but it sent chills down my spine. I wasn't sure if it was because this was "The Cove" that I saw in the movie, and I couldn't believe I was actually here, or if it was because I imagined that thousands and thousands of dolphins were brutally slaughtered here.
We then stopped in a restaurant to eat and I was surprised that half the menu was whale meat. He asked me if I wanted whale, and when I looked up at him I saw him begin to chuckle as if he knew my answer was going to be "no" even before he asked it. I declined and ordered a Vegan meal that included salad, tofu and gyoza -- I swear I totally forgot gyoza had meat in it. Out of respect to me he restrained from ordering whale and ordered some ramen.
On the way back to the hotel he asked me if we could stop by his friend’s house where three of his friends were hanging out who were all fans. I was tired, but I never want to disappoint a fan, so I agreed and off we went. When we got there I was greeted with warm smiles and firm handshakes. We all sat around a table and began to talk.
When the dolphin subject came up they expressed confusion about why it was so cruel when millions of cows, pigs, and chickens are being slaughtered all over the world. Then when I brought up Sea Shepherd their faces suddenly got a really hard look and they stopped talking and began shaking their heads. They didn't speak, so I said, "What? Tell me? I want to know what you guys feel about them." I could see that they hated Sea Shepherd with a passion but hesitated to tell me so. After repeated pleas for them to open up, one finally began to speak:
“Why do they come to our home and so rudely tell us that our cultural practices that we have been doing for over 700 years are horrible. They call us killers and show us no respect.”
They also expressed that unless all Sea Shepherds are Vegans, they are being hypocritical. I felt for them. I imagined outsiders coming into my home, ridiculing me about something in my history that I took pride in. That's when I began having a bad feeling about Sea Shepherd and began to despise what the Sea Shepherds were doing -- especially how they were going about it.
We talked for about three hours, and at the end of the night I realized that these people of Taiji who supported the whaling weren’t the hot-headed gangsters the movie The Cove portrayed them to be. They were people with pride in what they do and weren't about to back down from what they believe is right, especially not from outsiders -- and rude outsiders for that matter.
Then they turned the question around to me. "Enson, where do you stand in this situation?" they asked. I decided to be straightforward and to speak from my heart. I wasn't there to make friends. I was there to understand, and without honesty there wouldn't be any true understanding between the two parties. So I said, "It breaks my heart to see how the dolphins are killed." They agreed, but because it was something that had been done way before they were born, they accepted it and had the feeling that it couldn’t really be helped.
They pointed out it is just like the cows and the pigs. I eat them, but if I were to witness the slaughter I would feel bad about it but continue to eat them. Just because I come from a place where we don't eat dolphins, does this make these people bad? We eat cows, pigs and chickens, Australians eat kangaroos, Chinese and Koreans eat cats and dogs, etc.
Then one of the guys asked me, "What if we came to America and told everyone to stop wearing shoes in the house and if they didn't listen we began to insult and ridicule them. How would they feel?" I saw their point but wearing shoes in the house wasn't killing anything. It wasn't a very good metaphor but I saw his point.
I expressed to them that if I was in their position and some foreigner came in and told me my customs that went all the way back to my Great Great Grandfather were barbaric, I would snap. It would probably become physical and people would be getting hurt. That's when I began to feel more for the people of Taiji and gave them credit for being so controlled. However the cries of the dolphins and the scenes of the slaughter from The Cove kept popping into my head, and I couldn't shake them.
Then Lucky gave a big sigh of relief as he said, "Whew, I thought you were on Sea Shepherds’ side!" It blew me away when I thought that, even though he thought I was on the other side, he still was willing to show me around and befriend me. So I asked him, "Why did you agree to help me if you thought I was with the opposition?" He smiled and said, "We are not doing anything wrong here. We have pride in our culture. So I knew if you saw our side you would understand." I thanked him for being so open-minded but made sure he understood that I wasn't on either side. I was in no way going to choose sides until I heard both sides. He told me that was honorable and that he respected my approach.
Before I left I asked if I could take a picture, and they wanted to hold up a big piece of wood with a Japanese kanji etched in it. I looked at what was etched, and I noticed it was the kanji for "peace". I don't exactly know why they wanted to hold up that sign, but it told me that all in all they cherished the meaning of "Peace," and I prayed in my heart that there was a peaceful way out!
As I was saying my goodbyes one of the guys asked me if I wanted to speak to high up city officials, and if I wanted to ride on one of the hunting boats. I asked to please set up the meeting with the city officials tomorrow, and as for riding on one of the hunting boats, I needed time to think about it. I was interested, but since I hadn't had a chance to sit down with the Sea Shepherd side yet, I felt that if I moved too deep on this side, I might become biased and/or the Sea Shepherd side might see me as one of the Taiji hunters and close their doors for talking with me too. I kept reminding myself to stay neutral and to keep my personal feelings aside.
As I lay in bed summarizing my day I felt lost. I had a great first impression of the people of Taiji and knew they were great people. I could feel their reasons why they do the things they do, and I now knew deeper what they felt about this delicate situation. However, again I just couldn't seem to get myself to agree with the slaughter of the dolphins and began doubting that there was a peaceful solution to this problem.
Discouragement set in, but I was determined to go on.
November 30th: Day 5
I woke up with my mind in a whirlwind, lost and wondering how this day was going to go.
I had a meeting with three of Taiji town’s top officials assigned to the whaling issue. Before we met they were already briefed on who I was and why I wanted to talk to them. They told me that they usually decline meetings regarding the dolphin issue because of how touchy the subject was and because of false reports and write-ups they have had in the past. In their past experience with foreign media, a lot of what was discussed was taken out of context and written up to make them look like the bad guys. However they expressed to me that because of who I am and my reputation of having honor, they agreed to meet me. I was flattered.
I asked them if they planned to try to have a meeting of the parties involved sometime this year, and they said no because they tried to have one last year and it got nowhere. No one was willing to negotiate, and it just turned into a big argument, and it may have caused friction between the two sides which made the situation worse. I could see both sides had built a wall to protect themselves. Sea Shepherd felt these whalers were killers and regardless of culture, their jobs, or a 700 year old tradition, the killing had to stop. I agreed 100% that the killing needs to be stopped, but unless we can offer another way to live and make money it would be hard to get them to stop 100% cold turkey.
However I didn't agree with NO negotiation. I felt if the Japanese peoples’ beliefs and customs weren't treated with respect it was going to be hard to pursue without conflict. Also I knew the Japanese people were a people of pride, and giving in to opposition -- especially foreign opposition -- was against their way. Take for example in WWII, cornered Japanese soldiers would rather blow themselves up with a grenade than surrender. So I figured the best way would be to try to understand their thinking and their way so they could let down their guard. Only then would negotiations be possible. The officials also told me that the people of Taiji had gone on the defense because of all the verbal abuse by members of Sea Shepherd they encountered last year at the cove.
They had many uneasy feelings that had been built up inside. For instance, they told me that the movie The Cove was taken out of context, the videos were doctored, and it made false statements. Like the part of the woman crying, watching a dolphin in his last breaths, was actually two different videos taken separately but shown to make it look like she was watching the dolphin die. Also in the end it was mentioned that Mr. Moronuki, deputy of fisheries was fired when in fact he was still today working and currently holding the same position. Also a Taiji resident named "Private Space" in The Cove was reported in the movie to have been removed from his position at the cove, when in fact he didn't have any position at the cove but just wanted to stand up for the people against the foreigners. He is no longer seen at the cove because he was told to stay away to avoid being provoked into a rage only to get caught on video for the whole world to see.
They also informed me that many people in the town fear Sea Shepherd and have stereotyped all foreigners as Sea Shepherd, and Sea Shepherd as a whole to be ecoterrorists. I was getting more and more skeptical about talking to the Sea Shepherd people thinking it might be just wasted time.
Then we shook hands and I thanked them for their time, and that's when I asked if I could get a photo together. They began apologizing as they declined, expressing fear of being misunderstood and fear of showing their faces and being blamed for provoking more problems between the two sides. They also again emphasized to me that this meeting only took place because it was me. I still felt they had a basic feeling of uneasiness and still weren't 100% sure they could trust me. I was flattered, but disappointed, because I knew that I would take a miracle to get the two sides to talk.
We shook hands, then they walked me down to the car. We walked down to the car and, just as we exited the building, a small grey car drove up and my heart almost stopped when I noticed it was that beautiful Sea Shepherd girl I had seen at the hotel, with another girl. They drove in the parking lot, made a U-turn, and as they drove right past us my eyes met with hers and we again gave a slight nod of acknowledgment to each other as they passed right in front of us. I then thought they were going to park the car but they zoomed out and were gone before I knew it.
Wow . . . what was that? Were they checking on me? Damn, that timing of them driving up when they did and how they just disappeared felt like the twilight zone. I could almost hear the tune of The Twilight Zone playing in my head.
I said my goodbyes and headed back to my hotel. As I drove past the cove I noticed that little grey car again with the Sea Shepherd girls headed my way, but noticed they were being escorted by the police as they drove by me. I wondered what had happened . . . . Could they have done something to get in trouble right after they drove off from the multi-purpose building? Would that be possible, for I’d just seen them a mere two minutes ago. I was baffled and confused as I drove back to my hotel.
I got back to the hotel just in time to be picked up by Lucky because I was going to meet a group of fighters from Wakayama to help them train and get their side on this delicate issue. Lucky picked me up at 7 p.m., then off we were to a training center. When we arrived, I entered the training area, and by the shocked look on some of the fighters’ faces, I could tell my friend Lucky was a prankster. He kept it a secret about me being in town; no one knew I was coming to train that night.
As the time rolled on, more and more fighters showed up until there were over a dozen. I showed them some moves and we sparred for about an hour. After sparring, it was picture taking and autograph time -- that's when all the fighters turned into little kids in a candy store. We then sat around chatting, and that's when I brought up the dolphin issue. I surprised to hear the exact same response I was getting from all the people in Taiji. They hated Sea Shepherd, and they all had the same reason: Sea Shepherd’s disrespect and ridiculing tactics. There was a definite wall, and it seemed like the aggressive insulting tactics were more counterproductive than helping bring a solution to the problem.
Every day that passed, I was getting more and more weary of the idea of meeting with Sea Shepherd, but I knew in order to be fair and make the best judgment, I would have to remain unbiased and hear both sides.
The fighters were a great bunch of guys, and they were so grateful for me caring about the dolphin problem in Taiji enough to actually personally come down that they wanted to take me to dinner on Friday December 2nd. I graciously accepted as we said our goodbyes, sharing hand shakes and hugs. On the way home Lucky and I stopped by a ramen shop where the owner was a huge fan. We ate and I asked the owner his opinion and again got the same response: Dislike of Sea Shepherd and confusion, and why their culture and traditions weren't being respected.
I felt a real connection with the people of Taiji and could feel them beginning to trust me even if they knew I wasn't taking sides.
When I got back to the hotel I began packing my bags because I had to check out of the hotel in the morning and move to the Blue Harbor Hotel where I had the next three nights reserved.
December 1st: Day Six
Today I decided to go and check out the Whale Museum in Taiji and see the Whale and Dolphin Show. I felt weird paying for the admission. I felt like I was promoting the captivity, but I knew I was just there to observe and to educate myself a little more on this issue. As a child I went to numerous dolphin shows and thought they were spectacular and happy animals. However, this time it was different, I felt strange. I saw it in a different light. The dolphins no longer looked happy, but like slaves working for every bit of food. I just wanted to release them all back to the ocean.
After the whale show I walked over to the side of the pool, and they allowed me to walk up and see the dolphins close up. As I approached the dolphins one of the trainers came up to me and said, "Enson Inoue!" He was a fan, so I decided to take the opportunity and asked him some questions. I asked him how much the dolphins eat and he answered about 1.5 kilograms of fish each. I then asked how often do the dolphins die, and he answered not often but when one does die we hurt like someone in the family dies. I asked how long he had been training dolphins and he said 6 years. As I was talking to him, I noticed one of the senior trainers was scolding one of the girl trainers in a really irritated voice. He seemed a bit obnoxious, and I wondered if he ever got like that with the dolphins. I hung around for about 10 minutes and left. As I left the Museum I felt like I was leaving captured animals without trying to help. No doubt in my mind that the best place for a free animal is to be free, especially dolphins and whales.
While at the whale museum I got a call from one of the Taiji residents I’d spoken with the other night, and he asked me if I would like to ride on one of the hunting boats. I was at a loss for words . . . . Would that mean I was supporting the killing? If Sea Shepherd saw me on a boat would they think I was with the whalers? So many things were racing in my head that I didn't know what to say, so I just blurted out, "I'll think about it."
Wow . . . I could get some insight never ever before experienced by a foreign person. It would make me so much more credible to voice my opinion. I also could mingle with the hunters on a very personal level, which would allow me to understand them better. Yeah! I'm going to take this opportunity. Okay, what day should I go . . . . I began checking my schedule.
I then heard there was a beautiful waterfall in the next town, Nachi Town, with a beautiful temple near it. I decided to take a drive up there to do a bit of sightseeing, and so I could make a prayer to all the people in Taiji that suffer from this problem, and most of all for all the slaughtered and to be slaughtered dolphins. I walked to the temple first and was in awe at the beauty. I went to the main temple, lit some incense, and made a prayer for a quick peaceful solution to this problem in Taiji.
I was then approached by a priest who came up to shake my hand, saying he was a big fan. He said he wanted to thank me for what I do, for my fights and interviews inspired him to make it through the rough times in his life. I was flattered. He then told me that he wanted to take me to the back of the temple to a place where normal guests were not allowed to go. I eagerly accepted. However, because this spot was so sacred, he had to bless me first. Then he took me back there. It was breathtaking!!! He pointed out a spot under a cherry tree and told me the Gods are said to gather here. He told me a lot of priests came here to meditate or pray, so I took the opportunity and again said prayers for the Taiji people to have peace, for the whalers to have compassion and an open mind, for the slain dolphins to Rest in Peace, for the dolphins that were going to perish to have a quick and pain free death, and for the dolphins free in the open sea to stay far away from Taiji so they could swim free in the ocean.
After saying my prayers, I began asking the priest questions about the dolphin slayings and surprisingly he had the same issues about it being a tradition and the only way the people could make a living. I was baffled so I asked him, but aren’t they killing a living thing, and he just replied saying all living things must die and there is a balance in the universe of the hunter and the hunted. Like we kill dolphins for food, dolphins kill fish. I was surprised to see so little compassion in this priest and thanked him for his time and moved on.
Just then a thought popped into my head. What happens if one of the hunters hands me the hammer and tells me to start banging on one of the bang poles they use to scare the dolphins in with? What would I do? I couldn't bang the poles . . . . If I did even for just one single pound, I would have been a part of the slaughter of the dolphins. If I declined, would I be offending the hunters? Damn, I wanted to avoid that kind of weird moment, so then I began to wonder if going on the boat was a good idea.
As I walked back to my car, I noticed a shop with all kinds of plum (Ume) products, and since my family in Hawaii loves Ume, I walked in to buy some. Just as I made the purchase, a middle-aged man walked up to me and asked if he could take a picture with me. I did then pick his brain about the dolphin issue. He said he it was culture, but although he was raised in Taiji, he disliked dolphin meat and didn't eat it.
I'm still to find a single resident in the area who objects to the dolphin slaughter. It baffled me.
I then returned to town to meet two other animal activists. We met and spoke for about two hours, and we agreed that there is a big wall that has been built between the foreign activists and the people of Taiji making any type of compromise very difficult. I mentioned to them that I was offered the opportunity to ride on one of the hunting boats. They looked surprised and asked, "So what are you going to do? Are you going?"
I told them I had not decided and the fear I had about being asked to pound the bang pole. One of them said, "What is going to happen if they find a pod and begin to bang and chase them in? Are you ready for that? Do you know how you are going to react?"
Wow. I was caught off guard. I never really gave it that much thought. So I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in that situation. I imagined the dolphins’ panicked swim pattern, them terrified of being chased 30 kilometers into the cove. I imagined being there and seeing them close the nets to trap the doomed dolphins. I imagined having even a tiny bit of responsibility for this slaughter . . . it clicked . . . I can't do this. I'm a very emotional person. Just watching The Cove, anger for the hunters boiled in my heart. I can't imagine having it done right in front of my eyes. I could see myself letting my emotions take over and me throwing all the fisherman overboard and driving their boat away out of formation. That would be bad. I would be arrested then deported from Japan. That wouldn't be the best thing. That's when I realized that I couldn’t ride on the hunting boat.
Again tonight I walked over to the harbor and played my guitar to the ocean for about three hours. I sang to the dolphins again.
December 2nd: Day 7
Tomorrow was my last day here, and I still hadn't talked to the Sea Shepherd people. I was hesitant and a bit scared to clash with them and get into a heated argument. The hotels we stayed at were nearby, and the town was so small we would run into each other a lot. However, no matter how unreasonable they might seem, and how every local I talked to disliked them with a passion, I knew I had to get their side of it. I was lucky that the two activists I’d met yesterday had a great relationship with them and were kind enough to give them my contact number. First thing in the morning while I was driving to visit the whale memorial, I got a call from Sea Shepherd and the meeting was set for the afternoon.
While talking to the locals, many of them mentioned a whale statue in Taiji that they said they go to once or twice a year to pray to the dolphins. I asked one of the locals for directions and got up first thing in the morning and found it! They said they thank the dolphins and whales for providing and pray that they rest in peace. When I got there it was still just 6 a.m. so the park was empty. I approached the statue, put my hands together and began to pray. However I didn't pray for thanks for providing; instead I prayed that the whales and dolphins would rest in peace and that they forgive us humans for what we do.
I understand the local people praying their thanks for providing for the people, but I wondered if any of the locals prayed an apology for what they support or do to these innocent creatures. Have the locals ever studied the dolphins to realize how kind, loving, and intelligent they are? Would it matter? Because ever since I was born I’ve eaten beef and pork, but since I saw the movie Earthlings I find it hard to eat beef and pork in fear of promoting the way the animals are treated and tortured.
Are they just turning the other way? Do these people not have a conscience? Am I too sensitive? I was confused and couldn't fully understand where the Japanese people were coming from. However, by talking to them I could see they were human beings like all of us, so I really couldn't call them killers or barbaric. Maybe I needed to see deeper into what they feel and think . . .
I then went to a lookout nearby to gather my thoughts before heading back into town to meet with Sea Shepherd. I was nervous about the meeting and the video of Sea Shepherd verbally abusing some Japanese at the cove kept popping back into my head. As much as I despised the abusive, disrespectful tactics, I knew I had to meet them and give them a chance. I also knew I had to be honest and up front with them if I was going to have any type of true relationship with them. Whether it be a close understanding between us or a clash of opinions and animosity between us. Being true is the best way even though it is sometimes very difficult to do.
I arrived at the Charmon Hotel and walked into the lobby where we were to meet, and there sat four Sea Shepherd representatives all in black Sea Shepherd shirts. It was obvious they took pride in what they were doing and had no hesitation letting everyone know they were Sea Shepherd supporters. We greeted each other and as I took a seat, I was bewildered because the vibes I got from them were welcoming, and they were nothing like the locals portrayed them to be.
I was determined to be up front with them with no bullshit, so I started off by informing them about my true feelings for them that I gathered from Youtube videos and from talking to the locals. I started off by telling them that I was hesitant to meet them because of their reputation. I told them I would give them a fair chance, and I would not judge them by what I’d heard, although I pretty much already was. I straight up told them that I did not agree with the approach one of their leaders used last year insulting the people, and I could in no way support that type of tactics.
I felt so relieved to get that off my chest, and I was a bit nervous to hear their response. Then they spoke. The first one was the leader, and to my surprise it was that beautiful blonde girl that I ran into numerous times around the town.
The first words out of her mouth were, "We'd like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us and appreciate your honesty."
What?!?! That wasn't the type of response I expected from the notorious "Sea Shepherd." I was caught off guard and was now much more interested in hearing their side. They explained to me that in no way are they racist and in no way did they want to insult the people. They explained to me that despite the reputation and despite the various different approaches different representatives use, the bottom line is that they are here for the animals and to help save the ocean.
With that in mind I began to ask their opinions on the different topics that the locals brought up to me as I mingled with them.
I started off by asking them if they are Vegans. I felt that no matter what you are killing whether it be dolphins, cows, pigs, or chickens it is brutal. I also felt that it would be hypocritical of them to protest killing of any animal that was not being killed just for sport but for food, if they were eating beef, pork, or chicken. The answer surprised me. Yes all four of them had been Vegans for over three years. Wow!
Then I asked if all Sea Shepherd members were Vegan, and they said not all but close to 95% are. Damn!!! I couldn't wait to tell the locals this because this was another thing that gave them bad feelings for Sea Shepherd.
I then asked them what they thought about the fact that whaling has been in the culture for the last 700 years. Their response: cultures can change. Especially with the changes and growth the world is going through. A good example they brought up is slavery. It was a longtime tradition in America, and it was abolished. They made my aware that people can change with the times, and some things that were okay in the past, although not everyone may agree with the change, do change. As far as tradition goes, one of them said, "If they want to talk tradition we can respect that. But then, do it the traditional way! Don't use motors nor harpoons, do it the traditional way."
Wow, I was amazed. This made total sense, and I couldn't help but wonder whether the locals ever really gave this deep thought. Instead of a few men catching many whales, 10-20 men should be catching just one whale at a time. In Antarctica one Japanese whaling vessel kills 1000 whales in a season. In Taiji, with the help of motors 26 men can corral 10-30 dolphins at a time and approximately 2000 in a season.
Wow! That made so much sense. I couldn't wait to ask my Taiji friends what they thought about that idea.
Then I explained to them about Japanese pride and how offensive it may look when foreigners come in to their land suddenly and tell them that what they’ve been doing for 700 years is wrong. How the no compromise, stop what you're doing NOW attitude would be hard to swallow. They agreed, but they also stated that for years activists have been trying various ways to stop the killing to no avail, and some activists have resorted to desperate measures. They said they personally didn't use the abusive disrespectful tactics, but they also didn't strongly oppose it.
I could see that they had kindness in their hearts, respected the Japanese people, and really just wanted to do what was best for the dolphins. I also saw loyalty in them by not directly opposing any aggressive, abusive tactics that other Sea Shepherd supporters may use. This was a little disturbing and admirable at the same time. Does that make sense?
I also mentioned to them that many locals think Sea Shepherd is about money, but they told me they disagree. They stated that they were not being paid for this; in fact they paid their own way down just to support Sea Shepherd. Okay, this excludes these four, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all Sea Shepherd workers were the same, I thought.
I also noticed that they referred to the hunters as "Killers," and that to me was derogatory. Yes they kill for a living, but that doesn't mean they are "Killers.” Does being a lawyer where you twist the truth make you a "Liar"? Does the use of the law to protect the guilty make you an evil person. Does me being an aggressive fighter in the ring with the "Kill or be Killed" attitude mean I'm a hard ass or that I have an aggressive personality? No.
Yes they kill in their jobs, but that doesn't mean they are overall killers in all they do. Yes lawyers may twist the truth to defend a client, but that doesn't mean we should classify them as liars as a person on the whole. Hunters? Yes. Killers?
We talked about many issues and the all the feedback I got made sense! Sea Shepherd supporters weren't all what their reputation labels them as. Wow. The people of Taiji have such a misconception of the Sea Shepherd supporters. I now had a mission to somehow sit both sides down in the same room, not to agree or to fight, but to express each others opinions and to clear up all the stereotypes that were being made about the Taiji residents as cold human beings and about the Sea Shepherd representatives as ecoterrorists. I’ made good friends in the Taiji community, and I also felt that these four Sea Shepherd supporters I’d met had good hearts and were great people.
They also mentioned that they were warned by some to be careful of me, that I might be a Yakuza and dangerous. I then realized that we were in the same boat and this meeting could have easily not happened. Luckily we all had open minds and gave it a chance.
We sat and talked for three hours, and it was a very good, productive conversation. Contrary to their reputation they are very reasonable, understanding, and very easy to talk to! Sea Shepherd does not equal ecoterrorism. They are a group that does what they do with a passion and with fire in their hearts.
I plead now to those who have judged all Sea Shepherds just by shows and Youtube videos to please give them your open mind and don't judge them prematurely. As ashamed as I am, I did prejudge them, and I learned a great lesson today. Of course there maybe some Sea Shepherd members or supporters that do things and have tactics I may not agree with, but let's not stereotype.
And vice versa: Let's not judge all the hunters as "Killers." Let's not judge all the dolphin trainers and those related to the business of captivity as bad people. Yes, some Sea Shepherd supporters may be assholes and some dolphin hunters may be cold killers, but please, as hard as it is, let's just keep an open mind until we can meet and talk with each individual on a personal level. Passing premature judgment and stereotyping will not help the cause. Please open your minds and hearts, and remember We are all after the same thing: peace, harmony, and happiness! While the humans are fighting the dolphins are dying.
I shook hands with my new friends and thanked them for their time and understanding about my position of being non-biased. They invited me to move with them tomorrow, but I declined. I felt that because of my love for animals it would be easy for me to pick sides, but my power in this problem wouldn't be to take sides, but to act more as a negotiator or as a mediator. I told them that the people of Taiji have such a bad image of Sea Shepherd that if I were seen moving around with them it might ruin my trust with them and therefore hinder my ability to help negotiate. The Sea Shepherds totally understood and agreed to let me know if there was anything happening that they felt I should see. I then could go to the location separately and not be classified as a "Sea Shepherd.”
I then hurried back to my hotel to get ready for dinner. The fighters I’d trained with were so grateful for me coming to teach them that they wanted to take me out for dinner. They wanted to take me out to eat beef, and I accepted. It was Friday, and although I had a rule that I was eating Vegan on the weekdays and eating whatever I wanted on the weekends, I decided to make an exception and juggle my days. Since Friday was a weekday, I decided to switch it with the Sunday. Off I went to eat beef.
I got a chance to discuss with the fighters that not all Sea Shepherds were like terrorists. I told them that they just have a passion in what they are doing and are sometimes reacting on emotion. I vowed to them that the four Sea Shepherd members here now in Taiji are wonderful people. I was fortunate that I am very respected in the fighting community and these people take what I say into their heart. With this respect I get from the Japanese people that know me, and with the great communication I had with Sea Shepherd, I knew a calm sit-down was in the making.
I mentioned to the fighters that if whaling were really a tradition, “Why don't you guys do it the traditional way? Hunt with rowboats and harpoons made by hand.” They were at a loss for words and replied, "Wow, that is so true."
I also told them that every one of the Sea Shepherd supporters currently in Taiji were 100% Vegans. Some were skeptical while others were surprised and were letting down their initial prejudice towards Sea Shepherd. I could see the light!!!
There was enough fighting, insults, and bickering to no avail. Maybe understanding and respect for one another is what we all needed to begin to understand each other and hear the reasoning for the things they were doing. This could spark a pure type of communication that could possibly encourage change and eventually help the poor whales and dolphins.
If I could pull this off it would be a major breakthrough. The only problem was that I had a meeting in Osaka tomorrow, and I was planning to go straight back home to Saitama after stopping in Osaka. So that meant I had just one more day to make this happen.
I then told them that not only were all four of the Sea Shepherd supporters here were 100% Vegans, but so were 95% of all Sea Shepherds. Half of them were skeptical and the other half were sincerely surprised.
It is funny how the people of this world have become. An Evangelist swindles his followers for more money, and all evangelists become labeled as money hungry liars. A Yakuza gets caught for forcing shops to pay protection money, and all Yakuza are classified as bullies with no honor. A fighter gets convicted for beating his girlfriend, and all fighters are looked at as violent and scary. Unfortunate, but that's what we do. I felt I needed to keep my ability to be able to talk to both sides and ultimately, eventually, have the two sides meet and try to understand each others’ views more.
It's obvious that this issue is at a standstill. Both sides have built huge walls, and for me to make a difference, it wasn't going to help for me to take sides. So far this hadn't been done ever on a personal level, and I was determined to change that. The people of Taiji are wonderful people, and so are the Sea Shepherd supporters I met today. How can they have so much animosity for each other? I was determined to do what has never been done before, to have a Taiji resident have a friendly conversation with Sea Shepherd without fighting. It will be done!
Personally my emotions were on a seesaw battle, being able to understand both sides so that if there were a debate I could argue for both sides. Wow, what did I get myself into?
Because it was raining tonight, it spared the dolphin from having to listen to me hack on my guitar and listen to my horrible singing.
December 3rd: Day 8
A friend came into town, so in the morning I took her around and showed her all the spots just like Lucky did for me my first day. In the afternoon I had another meeting set up with some activists that were in Taiji, separate from Sea Shepherd. Ironically we met at the same place I had met with Sea Shepherd the day before.
We began the meeting, and this group was in Taiji of course to help with the dolphin issue but also to help sea turtles in the next town. They expressed their views about the dolphin issue, and they expressed that they were against the abusive tactics, and I was delighted because I felt the exact same way. However in the middle of out conversation one of the Sea Shepherd supporters wandered in the lobby and sat down. I said hello and wanted to continue with the meeting but then the people I was meeting with suddenly said, "So you want to meet up again sometime tonight?" I sensed that he didn't want to talk in front of the Sea Shepherd supporter because our meeting had just started.
Then the other three Sea Shepherd supporters wandered in and now I was in a room with two groups after the same thing but not really working together. Funny thing is I knew both sides were after the same thing but were not really getting along. The abusive behavior some Sea Shepherd supporters have shown in the past has not only built walls of defense between them and the Taiji people but even between the other activists who were there for the same reason, to help the dolphins. So the unfortunate thing was that this abusive behavior shown by a few Sea Shepherd supporters has been very counterproductive for the movement in more than a few ways. I could understand where they were coming from, because before I talked to the four Sea Shepherd supporters currently here in Taiji, I almost wrote them off to. I also do not want to participate in or support any disrespect or belittling from either side.
So I took a chance. I wanted to bring it out in the open. I didn't want to create another fight, so I avoided the "he said, she said" stuff, left names out, and put it into my own words. The four Sea Shepherd supporters I met the day before were all kind, understanding, good-hearted individuals, so I knew this wouldn't get ugly.
So I suddenly asked in a loud voice, "Okay, to you Sea Shepherd supporters. I believe you all are great people and fighting a great cause, but from what I have seen on Youtube, your higher ups incorporate so much disrespect to the people on the opposing side, how do you find it in you to accept and overlook that type of behavior?" I continued, "You all are respectful, understanding, and have open minded ways, which have been making great progress and are so unlike the disrespectful, belittling ways shown by some higher ups in Sea Shepherd. I don't understand it."
They responded by telling me that the Sea Shepherd higher ups I was talking about were really great guys. They also stressed the fact that they love animals and the bottom line is that because of their efforts thousands and thousands of animals are being saved. They all have personally met them, and they all have admiration and respect for them. A couple of them have also personally seen them actually risk their lives for animals. They agreed that maybe these higher ups may get a bit extreme and that it was not their personal style, but all in all the Sea Shepherd higher ups were doing something great for the animals.
Damn, I thought. Maybe I am once again passing judgment too fast. I trust these four Sea Shepherd supporters and I value their opinions.
I then brought up specific examples that were brought up to me in talking to various people. For example, I heard that a Sea Shepherd higher up was known to have passed the credit card for the Sea Shepherd account where all the donations are deposited, to his girlfriend so she could buy baby clothes. If this were true, it would be appalling. I imagined someone donating $50 to help save animals, and instead of directly helping the animals the money put clothes on this Sea Shepherd’s girlfriend’s baby's back. Was he going to redeposit the money later after she used the card? Was he taking advantage of the donations? Is he entitled to personally use some of the money, for all he does? He spends so much of his time and even risks his life at times. Does this justify him dipping into the account for personal reasons?
Then the Sea Shepherd supporter spoke and asked if there was any proof? Yes, without proof we would be running in circles. So the Sea Shepherd supporters I respect vouch for the higher ups. I respect them, and I can respect that. So I again think I passed judgment too soon.
I'm the very person who has gotten into trouble from reacting on emotion. Maybe the Sea Shepherd higher ups have been driven to this point from the frustration they get fighting an almost impossible fight. Maybe it's the passion they have for what they do sometimes that makes them say and do extreme things that rub the public the wrong way. I have beaten up numerous Paparazzi reporters for writing bullshit about me. Emotionally I wanted to give them a spanking but that wasn't the right thing to do. My emotional decision felt right at the time, but it actually was the worst thing I could have done for the situation. I was convicted of assault, put on probation, portrayed as a violent person, ruined my reputation, gave fighters a bad rap, got a follow write-up in the next magazine detailing my assault, and worst of all, they got the last laugh. All that just to satisfy my emotions? Not worth it. So I can make space for the fact that maybe these were emotional outbursts. Not an excuse to accept that kind of behavior, but a reason not to pass judgment just yet.
I personally sometimes think about hijacking a hunter, dragging him into a back alley, then cutting and beating him to death like they do to the dolphins. But what would that solve? Would I be satisfied? Would that put me in the same boat as the hunters, only worse for I would be doing it to a fellow human being and not a dolphin. Actually all it would do is take out one hunter who would be replaced the next day, give the other hunters more incentive to never give in to the activists, put me in a huge legal problem, and tarnish my karma for what I did. I also sometimes think of verbally and physically confronting and shutting up the abusive counterproductive activists, but again, what good would that do? It would fuel their abuse and again give me legal problems and bad karma. Two wrongs don't make a right, and emotions are not very reliable to react on. What I personally want to do in my heart and what is best for the dolphins just isn't the same thing. The hardest part is having to put my personal feelings aside and give everyone a fair chance to voice their opinions to my non-biased ears.
I, for example, have the reputation as a mean person, a dick, a scary guy, having too many Yakuza ties, and believe it or not I have also been rumored many times as being Yakuza. Truth is, besides me being a Yakuza, it's all true. I can be mean sometimes when I lose my cool. I was a dick so many times, especially in high school days. I also can be scary if you fuck me, and I do have deep Yakuza ties. So does that make me a bad person? "Yes" to some. "No" to others. I always am bummed when I hear people pass judgment on me, and funny how I often hypocritically do it to others. I got a lot of growing left to do!
It was getting late and close to dinnertime, so we were about to end the meeting. Then out of the blue my friend from Nagoya blurted out, “Let's all go to dinner together!” I cringed. One, Lucky was coming to meet me for dinner tonight and two, I had already explained to Sea Shepherd and to my friend that although I liked the Sea Shepherd supporters a lot, I did not want to be seen moving with them in fear of losing my negotiation power.
This whole problem is so touchy that me being seen with Sea Shepherd supporters would shut down all open and honest communication with the people of Taiji. So I slipped out of the lobby and my Nagoya friend came along. We went to the foot onsen, and I lashed out at my friend. I was upset that after I explained to her my situation, she still went ahead and put me in an awkward position by suggesting we all go to dinner together. She apologized and said she would be more careful. Then she asked me what I was going to do for dinner, and I told her Lucky was coming to pick me up, so I gave her the choice to come with Lucky and me, or she could go meet up with the Sea Shepherd supporters. She then suggested that maybe we could bring Lucky to the restaurant where the Sea Shepherd supporters were and have them meet, but I disagreed. I felt it was too soon and would be taking a risk of creating an unneeded confrontation. So she was going to meet up with the Sea Shepherd supporters, and I was going with Lucky.
Lucky drove up, jumped out of his car, took off his shoes, and joined us in the foot onsen. When I asked him what he wanted to eat he said, "Up to you." So for the hell of it I asked him if he wanted to eat Chinese food and he said okay. Then I cautiously told him that the Sea Shepherd supporters would probably be eating there too, trying to see if I could notice any uneasiness because of that suggestion. To my surprise he thought for a brief second and said, "Okay."
Wow! I couldn't believe he agreed!!! I was a bit nervous but decided to give it a shot . . .
As we walked towards the Chinese restaurant I was having my doubts. This had never been done in the past seven years. However, if Lucky was good with it, then I figured just to flow with it. I actually thought he was going to say “no,” and just he and I were going to grab a bite to eat elsewhere. I asked him a couple more times on the way if he wanted to do this, and I could see he was totally okay with it. I also was wondering how much of Lucky agreeing to go was because of his curiosity about seeing for himself what the Sea Shepherds were like and how much was because he had pride and wasn't going to seem like a coward and avoid certain places in his town just because Sea Shepherd was there. I spoke to him a lot about how awesome the Sea Shepherd supporters currently here were, and I believe he wanted to see for himself. Lucky is a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but to me he didn't seem like a guy with too much pride and ego.
We entered the restaurant and the first thing that caught my eye was a cluster of black shirts sitting at a table by the door. The moment our eyes met the Sea Shepherd crew gave us a warm greeting and instantaneously began scooting over to make room for us. Many thoughts raced through my mind. Should we sit at separate table? Was I pushing it for just having a Taiji resident publicly dine with an acquaintance of Sea Shepherd, let alone would sitting at the next table to Sea Shepherd be a great feat in itself? As these thoughts were whirling in my head my body was slowly advancing towards the table where Sea Shepherd sat, and I found myself automatically sitting down. Just before I sat down I leaned over to Lucky and whispered in his ear, "Daijyobu?" Which means "Are you okay?" in Japanese and he nodded his head to acknowledge me it was okay.
I cut through the bullshit and began by introducing Lucky. I introduced him as a Taiji resident, and although I could see a bit of surprise on the Sea Shepherd supporters’ faces, they welcomed him with smiles and friendly handshakes. Lucky also seemed a bit tense, but he returned the smiles and handshakes. My heart was smiling, and I wanted to pull out my camera and catch this on camera, but held off from doing so, for we were already walking a fine line. We talked about all kinds of stuff, and both parties avoided the dolphin issue like the plague. Lucky was slowly loosening up, but I noticed every time the door to the restaurant opened he would look to see who was coming in. He was obviously a little concerned, but I found it honorable that he continued to sit with us and engage in our conversation.
After an hour passed Lucky had finally loosened up when through the door walked a heavyset men with his family. Lucky glanced towards the door, and as they took a seat behind us, Lucky had a smirk on his face like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but still he remained in his seat and pretended like everything was okay.
So I leaned over and asked him again, "Daijyobu?" He chuckled and said that was his boss that just walked in. "Holy Shit!!!!" I thought. Then Lucky said to me, "It can't be helped. He already saw me. I'm not doing nothing wrong." Wow. I loved the way Lucky thought. A real man. Truly a man with Yamatodamashii, the samurai spirit.
We sat and talked for hours while eating our delicious Vegan Chinese food. Then an amazing thing happened. The table we were at was international. There were an Australian, South African, Canadian, a Dutchman, an American (me), and two Japanese. We compared many strange things about each other’s countries and the subject of strange animals eaten came up. Australians ate Kangaroo, Americans ate horse meat, and South Africans ate monkeys. Upon hearing that South Africans ate monkeys, Lucky blurted out, "Eewwww!!!" and buried his head in disgust. We all looked at him and began laughing together. Then I said, "Hey Lucky, that's exactly how we feel about you eating dolphins." He peered out at me between his hands and tilted his head as if to be analyzing what I’d just said and began nodding his head. He then said, "I see. I see. That's what you guys feel about the people of Taiji eating dolphins . . . ." It seemed like his eyes were opened up to something he never understood. Like how you would react to your math teacher showing you a solution to a calculus problem you thought was impossible to work out.
I sat back in amazement. I'm not sure if it was just me, but I felt I just witnessed hope. Hope that this seemingly impossible controversy that was at a stand still had a chance to be worked out. Before the dinner Lucky would express to me how he couldn't understand what was wrong with eating dolphin. He thought it was just like eating fish, beef, or pork. But suddenly he realized. His mind opened up! Before this dinner he thought the Sea Shepherds were overreacting on the consumption of dolphin.
This tiny incident opened some eyes. There was also realization that these Taiji residents that eat dolphin were not cold people that eat dolphins. Lucky had eaten dolphins since he was a child, and he saw nothing weird about it and couldn't understand why everyone made such a big deal about it. In order to judge people you need to understand their culture, their upbringing. If I judged Lucky by my beliefs and upbringing, he would be a cold insensitive man that ate the poor dolphins. But on the other hand, f I took time and looked into his beliefs and upbringing I would understand that he wasn't a bad person. His beliefs and customs were different, but did that mean I was right and he was wrong? He would easily say vice versa.
This incident was proof that one, there was a chance for a peaceful solution, and two, in order to make progress on this Taiji problem, we had to understand each other and show compassion for each other’s beliefs and customs. Coming into a different country with no idea about what the culture is and what the people’s beliefs are and then trying to aggressively push your beliefs is a hit and miss chance you take. If the people are submissive, then you may be able to scare them and force them to change what they do. But if the have pride as the Japanese have, they will fight and build a wall of defense that closes all doors to any type of communication.
That's where we stand at this very moment in Taiji. I believe the aggressive activists’ style is just making the people of Taiji harder to reach, therefore making a solution near impossible. If we aggressively tried to convince Lucky that eating dolphin was weird he wouldn't have understood because he would be too busy building that wall of defense against these strange, pushy, obnoxious foreigners who understand nothing about their culture and couldn't even understand the native language. However, by showing Lucky kindness, as the Sea Shepherd supporters did at dinner, dissolved Lucky's walls of defense and made communication and understanding possible.
Although Lucky was just one person, it was better than none, and if one could change, others could to. There was a possibility of the dolphin activists and the people of Taiji to communicate and understand each other. Neither were barbarians and both were human beings. As we were saying our goodbyes for the night I saw what I believe is breaking news in Taiji: I saw a Taiji resident firmly shake hands and embrace in a hug with the Sea Shepherds. I couldn't believe my eyes. This one moment made my whole week of frustration all worthwhile. I was making a difference . . . very small, but it was a difference.
December 4th: Day 9
This morning I got a call from the Sea Shepherd supporters, and they told me that a pod of dolphins were being driven in towards the cove. I was at the lookout by the Whale monument watching the beautiful sunrise in Taiji. It was breathtaking, and I sat there and absorbed the power of the sunrise. I imagined the killing that might be happening just around the bend, and I had a weird feeling in my chest. Such a beautiful place with such a horrifying tradition.
Then suddenly I got the call about the pod being driven in to the cove. I jumped in my car and drove straight to the cove. This day, when I got there, was unlike all the other days I drove past the cove. The usually empty cove had many men standing and looking out into the ocean. My heart was thumping as I anticipated seeing the boats pulling into the cove, but nothing happened. I turned to one of the men there and asked, "Are they driving dolphins in?" He looked at me in a strange way and said, "We don't know yet." Just as he said that a skiff came around the bend and three banger boats followed. You could hear the banging, clank clank clank clank, and in the water between the boats you could see a pod of dolphins panicked and swimming in fright. As the boats drove the dolphins deeper into the cove I couldn't help but pray in my heart that the dolphins somehow would make a miracle escape. It was so heartbreaking to see the dolphins nearing their horrible fate. To hear about it is sad, but to see it in person has a much bigger impact on you.
After the dolphins were corralled into the cove, I moved to a different spot above the cove to get a look into the smaller cove to the right where the slaughter takes place. There I ran into all the Sea Shepherd supporters and noticed there were two spots they were monitoring. The small cove to the right of “The Cove" where the slaughter takes place, and the point where you can see the drive come in and the vessels that go in and out of the cove. At the point you can see all the skiffs come in and you can see the trainers come in to pick the dolphins and when the hunters come in to finish off the unchosen left overs in the pod. When the hunters go in, you can't really view the killing because of the tarps they hang to block the view, but you can hear the splashing of the dolphins’ tails and an occasional cry. My heart sank as I found myself not taking this as well as I thought I would. I sat at the point and my heart broke imagining what the dolphins were going through and that I couldn't do anything about it. I refused to go to the side of the mountain where the killing was happening in fear of losing control of my emotions.
So I just sat at the point praying to God that he make the dolphins go swiftly and with the least pain possible. I sat there staring out into the open ocean thinking that the dolphins should be swimming free out there now! Jumping, playing, and enjoying their freedom . . . but instead . . . they had met a horrible fate. They trust and have compassion for humans and this is what we do to them??? I wondered why God didn't protect his angels of the sea and wondered if God has a reason. He always does . . . doesn't He??
I then said a silent prayer for all the slain dolphins and prayed for their forgiveness for how we treat them. I felt so hopeless. Later that night I had a meeting in Osaka and at the emotional state I was currently in I didn't know if I wanted go home as planned after the meeting.
Here I was, a man of Yamatodamashii, considered by many to have an unbreakable spirit, now broken beyond words and beyond tears. Seeing the drive hit me hard . . . so hard that I don't think I'll ever be the same.
Then suddenly groups of police began coming up and the Sea Shepherd supporters informed me that this was normal. They approached me and asked me to fill out a questionnaire that asked me to state my name address, contact information, reason for visiting Taiji, and where I would go after Taiji. It was weird, but I signed it without a question. Then they asked me for my passport. I didn't have it, and the younger police officer told me I needed to carry it with me at all times. They informed me that if I didn't carry it, I could be asked to go get it or be arrested. He then said that because they knew who I was, they would make an exception today. I reluctantly thanked them, but was in a sort of a daze, still flustered by the drive I’d seen minutes ago.
I then got a phone call from one of my Taiji friends, and he said that a guy who works transporting dolphin and whale meat wanted to talk to me. It caught me off guard. Up until now I was the one asking for meetings, but now this guy was asking to meet me . . . Why?
Before I left I remembered hearing that some Sea Shepherd supporters were spit at by certain fishermen. I couldn't help but imagine myself in the same predicament and wondered what I would do. I imagined me disregarding the law and grabbing the fisherman's head and introducing his face to the pavement in a bad way. But then I would be arrested. So I figured that spitting back would be justified because, after all, he spit on me first! Just to be safe I asked one of the police officers there what I could legally do in a situation like that. He said for me, nothing.
Because I was a professional fighter not just spitting but any type of aggressive gesture would get me arrested. For example, if I was spit on and I spit back, I would be arrested and not the guy who spit on me first. Even if I didn't spit back and I made an aggressive bodily gesture towards him, I would be arrested. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! That wasn't fair. The police then explained that it was because I was a professional fighter and my image was of a dangerous person, and this created fear in people. My actions would be taken in a different context than the actions of a fisherman. I would have to just turn away and do nothing if a fisherman pushed me or spit on me?
I honestly couldn't say I would be able to suck that up even knowing what the consequences would be. I jokingly turned to one of the Sea Shepherd supporters and said, "Heard that? If I get spit on then you would have to spit back for me." Then before he could respond the police interrupted and said, "No, Sea Shepherd same." I couldn't believe my ears so I had to clarify. “You mean Sea Shepherd is in the same class as me, a professional fighter?” He nodded and said that Sea Shepherd is notorious in this community and is feared by many people. I couldn't help but laugh and say out loud, "See? Sea Shepherds are scary people! I knew it!" We all laughed despite the disbelief at what we had just heard. I called all the Sea Shepherds together to explain this law to them so they could be careful if ever caught in a situation like that.
I had scheduled to meet the dolphin meat transporter at my hotel in an hour, so I quickly drove back into town and there he sat in the lobby. As I walked in there sat a heavyset man with a very scary aura about him, only to be transformed into a little puppy dog as soon as he saw me walk in. He stood up to greet me and offered his hand in a friendly gesture.
He started out by handing me a foam case, obviously with some type of seafood in it, and I cringed as I asked him, "This isn't dolphin meat...?" He said no, it was raw tuna, and I graciously accepted, honestly telling him that “I do not like raw fish but thank you." He laughed and told me to give it away to someone I knew.
We sat down and the first thing he said was that he was a big fan of my fighting. He then continued by explaining the reason why he contacted me was because there was word in town that I was hearing both sides, and he wanted to voice his. He clearly disliked Sea Shepherd and began giving me the same reasons I’d been hearing all week from the other locals. I was really tired of hearing the same claims: verbal abuse which showed disrespect for the Japanese and their culture and the misleading write-ups about what they saw.
A big issue was the sick pilot whale at Dolphin Resort. He resented the false reports written up by Sea Shepherd and asked that they just write the truth. Then I asked him, "How are they supposed to write the truth when all is hidden from them?" The write-ups I saw by Sea Shepherd concerning the pilot whale were pretty accurate to me from looking at it from a distance. How did he expect the write-ups to be accurate when they refused to speak or share information with any activist? He agreed, but went on to say that last year Sea Shepherd belittled them and disrespected them on their own soil. I could tell he was a proud man and his pride has been hurt.
Again there was the wall that has been built by the too aggressive tactics of some activists. This was discouraging for me, because although I did see on Youtube what some Sea Shepherd supporters did to two young fishermen at the cove, I also knew that stereotyping all Sea Shepherd supporters because of that is wrong.
I came straight up with him and asked him if he’d ever met with and talked to Sea Shepherd personally. He said no, but some staff of the fishing industry had been shown the middle finger on more than one occasion. I almost laughed. The "Birdy," I thought as I imagined some of the Sea Shepherd supporters I knew doing that. Solution to the language barrier . . . the birdy. I had to hold in my laugh.
I then asked him if he’d ever sat down and talked to the current Sea Shepherd crew in Taiji. He said no and I continued, "I have and they are great people. I saw the Youtube video too, but the Sea Shepherd supporters here now are nothing like that." I felt like such a hypocrite saying that, for I too had passed judgment before meeting them. I saw a surprised look on his face because he had so much respect for me, so if I was saying this, he trusted it was true.
But it was against what he and the whole community believed. So I proposed to him to give him a chance to meet with them. Even for just 5 minutes. He looked down and thought for a second, then looked up at me and said that he would love to. I didn't expect that, so I told him that I was leaving tomorrow, so maybe on my next trip I would try to set it up.
I then spoke to the Sea Shepherd supporters here, and they also agreed to meet. I wasn't sure if I could pull this off because I was scheduled to leave today, and the next time I would be in Taiji there would probably be a whole new group of Sea Shepherd supporters that I didn't even know.
I got in my car and began my long five-hour drive back to Osaka. I was leaving Taiji, but I felt like I was leaving something behind. I got to Osaka and felt that something was missing as I met with a high underworld figure. I kept thinking of the walls I could help break down by setting up that meeting, and finally I made up my mind. I was going back to Taiji!!!
December 5th: Day 10
I arrived in Osaka safely and headed to the meeting early. My friend arrived and, upon meeting him, I presented him with the case of fresh tuna the meat transporter had given to me. He thanked me and the meeting began. The meeting was about a job in Thailand, and because I declined there wasn't much to talk about. So instead we passed the night away drinking and talking about all sorts of things. I don't drink, so I was drinking water, checking the time every five minutes, knowing I had a four- to five-hour drive back to Taiji, wondering if I would be able to make it back to Taiji in time for the dolphin drive.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to see the slaughter again, but something in me wanted to be close by if it happened. He was drinking Japanese sake and as his speech began to slur; I knew the night was coming to an end. I glanced at the time and was surprised to see that it was already 1 a.m. If I didn't leave soon I would miss the morning activities in Taiji, so I thanked him for a good time and excused myself.
I jumped in my car and headed off on my 300 kilometer drive back to Taiji with no sleep. I only average three to four hours of sleep a night, so I planned to stop when I got tired and take power naps along the roadside. I drove in the night imagining a pod of dolphins heading towards Taiji, hoping they would swim fast and pass Taiji before dawn. I imagined the dolphins in captivity and what kind of stress they were going through losing their families, then living in little pools. So many thoughts raced in my head as I dreaded the morning, imagining the hunters driving in a panicked pod of dolphins. I felt like someone was wringing all the blood out of my heart.
The two traits that lead the dolphin to its doom are compassion and loyalty -- two traits that associate with love and harmony. If human beings had these two traits, the world would be a much better place. Unfortunately, these two wonderful traits that people would be lucky to have are what lead the dolphins to death. The compassion for other living things allow the humans to get close to them, and the loyalty they have for each other makes them easier to drive into the cove. Dolphins will not leave each other’s side; they will stay together even in death. It is so unfair . . . the traits they should be rewarded and praised for . . . mean they are losing their lives.
The roads were dark, curvy, and there was a lot of fog. It was eerie, and it felt like I was driving in a dream. The fog blinded me from gauging the sharp turns, so I had to reduce my speed in order to make it back in one piece. I made two stops and got an hour power nap at each stop. Two hours was a bit short, but enough to get me through the day. As I arrived in Taiji I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise, and that's when I knew I had made the right decision in coming back.
I drove straight to the harbor where I found the beautiful Sea Shepherd girl hanging out. She told me twelve banger boats had gone out, then she brought me to a lookout to see them come in. If they came in single-file, it meant they hadn’t found a pod, and if they came in in a 3-7 boat formation, that meant they’d found a pod. As the hours passed we wondered if they’d found any pods. I prayed in my heart to God that he spare the dolphins today. I gazed out onto the horizon looking for banger boats, my heart pounding anticipating a cluster of banger boats in formation.
Then the first banger boat came into view. It was coming in solo!!!! One down . . . eleven to go. I stood on the guardrail to get another look as we began counting the banger boats on the horizon. The banger boats began to come in one by and my heart began to flutter in anticipation that the hunters might come in empty today!!! We all couldn't celebrate until all the banger boats came in, because although it takes at least three banger boats to drive in a pod, if just one banger boat finds a pod, it will call the other boats back out to start the drive.
2 . . . 3 . . . 4. . . . . . 9 . . . 10 . . . 11 . . . . . . Shit! Where was the last one? No one could find it for a while. Then, out from the far south, there it was! The hunters got jack shit!!! It was a great day for us, and a greater day for the dolphins!!!!!
While we were rejoicing the dolphin-less banger boats, I got a call from the meat transporter. He had connection to Dolphin Base and invited me to meet the trainers and see the dolphins up close. He picked me up at my hotel and we headed to Dolphin Base. I knew that after watching the banger boats come in, Sea Shepherd usually goes to the Dolphin Base, so I expected them to be there. I didn't see any problem with that. In fact I saw it as a chance to introduce him and the Sea Shepherd supporters to each other. I’d wanted to set up a meeting later in the day with some Sea Shepherd supporters and the meat transporter. Sea Shepherd had agreed, and so had the meat transporter, so it was just a matter of setting up a place and time.
We parked our car and began walking to Dolphin Base. As we turned the corner I noticed a bunch of black shirts sitting quietly on a wall overlooking the Dolphin Base, and I said hello and signaled for one of the Sea Shepherd supporters to come over. She did and I introduced them to each other and informed them that we would have the sit-down later, not now. The Sea Shepherd supporter seemed tense, and I could feel very uncomfortable tension in the air. She was usually so friendly and kind, but I felt something very different in her demeanor. So I intervened -- literally grabbed her shoulders and spun her in an "about face" and gave her a little nudge saying we'd all talk later.
I knew the Sea Shepherd supporters hated the captivity projects because they felt it was cruel and a life of slavery. I was nervous because if I saw them mistreating or being cruel to the dolphins in any way, I wasn't sure if I could bite my tongue.
The meat transporter then brought me all the way down to the dolphins -- a place where everyone except the Dolphin Base Staff was not allowed to go. I first met all the trainers, and they were all wonderful young people. I was surprised because I’d passed judgment on them as being insensitive for supporting captivity. They weren't the insensitive people that some activists paint them to be. Yes, in a roundabout way they are a part of the whole dolphin drive, but they were such nice people. I had mixed feelings because I felt that if they really loved the dolphins, they wouldn't support anything about the drive. But when I really thought about it, I was in the same position. I really cared about the cruel slayings of the hunters, but I also had befriended Lucky, who eats dolphin meat, and the guy who’d brought me here who transports dolphin meat.
You could say the same for me. If I really hated the drive, I wouldn't befriend anyone associated with it directly or indirectly. But I do hate it and I did befriend these people. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but I feel I'm being fair and doing everything in my power to help the dolphins.
As I was walking along the dock I noticed a pen to the far left that contained three dolphins. The trainers were feeding them lots of fish without making them do any tricks. I was led to believe that these dolphins had to slave for their food, so I was surprised to see this. I turned to the dolphin trainer and asked, "Don't the dolphins have to do tricks for their food?" She answered, "Yes, but not all the time. Every day we have a training time and a separate feeding time."
"So they don't have to do a trick for every bite of food they eat?" I asked. She kind of chuckled and said, "Of course not!"
Wow a big part of the reason why I felt the captivity was cruel was because I though the dolphins had to do tricks for every bite of food. I was then determined to ask them about everything I resented about captivity, just so I didn't have my facts wrong before judging.
Next they showed me the food the dolphins were fed. There were buckets of medium-sized fish that looked like they were out of a local supermarket. I asked them if the fish were fresh, and they told me that they only feed the dolphins top-quality fish good enough for humans to eat.
But then again I was talking to a group of people who regularly ate mercury contaminated dolphin and whale meat, so coming from them that wasn't saying much.
I turned to the big pen and there were three little dolphin trainers sitting on the edge using fish to train the dolphins. I couldn't believe how smart the dolphins were. I noticed one of the trainers get up to grab more fish and I saw the dolphin in front of her follow her. So I asked them, "Does each dolphin have a certain trainer they are attached to?" The answer was yes. Then I asked them to switch positions because I wanted to see if the dolphins would follow their favorite trainer, and to my disbelief they did. Each dolphin had an attachment to its own trainer. They literally followed their particular trainer around the pen. The trainers weren't carrying food, so it wasn't for the food.
What kind of bond is that? Is there love both ways? I could tell the trainers adored the dolphins, but did the dolphins love them back? It looked like it to me, but I know jack shit about dolphins.
I walked around the pens and saw a dolphin that was born in captivity and yes, the infamous sick Pilot Whale. He was barely moving, hovering in the middle of the pen. I asked them about this whale, and they told me that they’d taken blood tests and it all came back okay. He eats some days and doesn't others. They are worried about him, but at times he eats a lot, so they are hoping and keeping a sharp eye on him.
Then the head trainer began signaling for some of her workers to open up one of the pens. What??? They were going to let them free??? If they opened the pens up, the dolphins would be in open ocean . . . they could escape!!! I was confused. If there was a chance for the dolphins to escape why would she open the pens??? Did she do this often??? My heart began racing. They opened the pen and the two dolphins inside bolted out!!! They were free!!!!
They bolted to the open ocean and disappeared!!! They escaped!!! My heart was racing; I couldn't understand why the trainers were so calm. They couldn’t be so sure these dolphins wouldn't run away! Just then the two dolphins popped up right in front of us, stuck their heads out of the water, looked at the trainers and again darted off in the open ocean.
"Aren't you afraid they will run away?" I asked. The trainer calmly answered, "No! They always come back."
Why? Humans just killed their family and they are kept in a pen instead of swimming freely in the open ocean. Why don't they run away???? If some being killed my family I would never have an attachment to them -- only an “attachment” to inflict pain on them or to kill them. If I were taken out of the free world and locked in a shower, the moment I was set free I would get the hell out of there. What were the dolphins thinking that prevented them from running away???
Just then a big fish swam past me and a dolphin bolted in that direction and disappeared. Seconds later he appears right in front of us with the fish in his mouth, as if he was showing off his catch to the trainer. "Why doesn't he eat it?", I asked the trainer.
"Well she just ate and isn't hungry." the trainer said.
"Really?" I replied, "I thought they were always kept hungry so they can always be trained."
"No," she said as she pointed to the inside of the pen and gestured me to come over and look at what she was pointing to. I looked into the water and there were many fish swimming in the pen. This bewildered me. Why didn't the dolphins eat the fish? I asked her and she said it's because they are not hungry. "We don't starve the dolphins. There is a fine line of overfeeding them. Just in the winter, we give them more food so they get a little fat to help them deal with the cold winter." Okay, now that was credible: they just ignore the other smaller fish in the pen.
At one point the two free dolphins actually darted back into the pens and had to be coerced back out into the open ocean. Then we all decided to leave and everyone began walking back to the office. I stopped, realizing that they’d forgotten to lock the dolphins back in the pens, so I asked them, "What about the dolphins?"
They told me that they were going to let them swim free until the evening feeding time at 6 p.m. It was only 12 noon, so they were going to leave the dolphins out for 6 hours??? If the dolphins were really unhappy, I would think they would make an escape. This was puzzling.
As we walked off the dock I glanced back in the water and a dolphin swam right up to us, watched us go up the stairs, and then darted back into the open ocean. I couldn't believe what I just saw. Captivity can't be as bad as I thought it was for the dolphins. The drive is bad, and yes captivity is also unfair to the dolphins, but they don't seem to be suffering and the trainers do care about them.
I went back to the hotel and was tired from the lack of sleep. I couldn't get out of my head how intelligent these dolphins are and how personable they are with the trainers. The attachment and the affection they show for the trainers is similar to how dogs are with their owners. Again, I know jack shit about dolphins, I'm just expressing my opinion.
I returned to the hotel only to find the Sea Shepherd supporters all hanging out in the lobby. I was excited to talk to them after what I saw at Dolphin Base, thinking they also might change their minds and not think captivity was so cruel, but was I wrong.
I walked in and was instantly asked, "So what did you think?" I told them how impressed I was with the intelligence of the dolphins and the affection between the dolphins and their trainers. I also told them that the dolphins weren't unhappy; in fact they seemed to have adapted to their new environment well.
Then one of the Sea Shepherd supporters pointed out that they are not “happy”; it is a dependency on the trainers they’ve developed.
I pointed out that whatever the reason is, they have a choice and they are choosing to stay.
They also insisted that they trainers don't care for the dolphins because if they did then they wouldn't support the drive in any way. I agreed with that, but I also understood that this town has been a whaling town for the past 700 years. So obviously they were brought up with these whaling ways since childhood. Also, Japan is a town of normality. Rarely does anyone stand against the grain, and if they do, they and their families may suffer by being alienated from the community. The trainers were in a hard situation. They might hate the drive and the slaughter, but training the dolphins was their job and was a part of their community ever since they were born,
It got heated and voices were raised, but it all ended in a difference of opinion. However, there was one thing we all agreed with from the beginning: that we were all 100% against the drive and that the best place for the dolphins was in the open sea.
We sort of agreed to disagree, and I set off to return to my room to get some rest. Before I left, the youngest of the Sea Shepherd supporters wanted to say one thing. She said, "I'm not going to try to change your mind, Enson, but I just want to ask you to do one thing. I'll send you some links and can you please just watch the links I send you. See the dolphins in the open sea. See what they really look like when they are free and truly happy! Then ask yourself if they are happy or not in captivity." I agreed and said goodbye to them.
I got to my room, dozed off for a couple hours, then woke up hungry!!! Everyone had already eaten, so I walked to the Chinese restaurant by myself, ordered my Vegan meal, and began to gulp down my food for I was starving. My mind began racing, jumping back and forth about the drive, the slaughter, and what I’d seen at Dolphin Base. It was tearing me apart inside. When I went to Dolphin Base that was the first time I ever saw dolphins up so close. I began to recollect what affectionate loving animals the dolphins are then . . . the slaughter, the screeches, and the thrashing of the dolphins as they were being slaughtered.
My heart sank. I lost my appetite and didn't finish my meal. I was alone so the feelings I was having began to overwhelm me. I then walked over to the foot onsen to try to forget and relax, but I couldn't shake my thoughts. I decided to go back to my room and make some bracelets because I enjoyed making bracelets and it was a sort of therapy for me.
I got back to the hotel, got all my supplies out of the car and set up shop in my room. I made a few bracelets but still couldn't completely shake my thoughts of the loving dolphins and how they were violated. So I opened my computer and out popped links from the young Sea Shepherd supporter of the dolphins in their natural habitat, in the open ocean.
I watched them and something in me hit me. I realized how wonderful these animals are and all the suffering they go through. I wondered if, although they weren't in the best place for them, they could find happiness and adapt to a secondary environment. Like when I was put in jail four years ago. The first week I was locked up I was miserable losing my freedom and couldn't fight thoughts of what I should be doing and the places I could go if I were free. Nothing in jail was good. I was miserable. But after a week I adapted; I accepted in my heart that my freedom was gone and my world was now here in a small prison cell. I then began finding things that in a way made me happy. I looked forward to the showers we could take once a week. When we were let out of our cells to brush our teeth and wash our face, I felt like it was a treat.
Is that what happens with the dolphins too? They lose their freedom but adapt, and although they are not the happiest, they find a sort of happiness in the environment they are in . . . But is that possible, to adapt after having your family slaughtered? There were also some in prison that couldn't adapt. They always had a blank stare and some didn't eat. Is that also how the dolphins were? Some couldn't adjust, couldn't cope with the drastic change . . .
I really didn't know, but one thing I felt sure about was that the ones at Dolphin Base were not miserable. Then, once again, I know jack shit about the dolphins.
I then felt the need to finally be honest with my followers and posted my raw true feelings on Facebook:
"Tomorrow is my last day, and I'm so scared to go down to the cove. I don't want to see another pod being captured. I'm beginning to feel pain in my heart, and I usually don't handle this type of pain very well. I don't want to get unreasonable and react on my emotion like I do a lot. Tears fill my eyes at this moment . . . for the pain all the dolphins go through. Seeing their families die and knowing that they too will face that fate. I always say, ‘The real fear is not death itself, but the real horror is from the time you know you are going to die until the time you do die.’
These dolphins know they are going to die long before they actually do. Weather they die in one second or seven minutes, the horror I just talked about lasts much longer. I understand the Japanese side of custom and survival, but it still hurts me. What is best for the situation and what I personally want to do is tearing me apart. I wanted to stay away from voicing my personal opinion, but it's too hard. I want the killing to stop, but I don't have the answers or solutions for my Japanese friends when they voice their position. I feel what Sea Shepherd feels, and I hate their extreme actions as much I have always hated my own extreme actions in my past. I may be losing my negotiation skills by finding it harder and harder to stay neutral. I'm so sorry everyone. . .
I want to offer the Japanese a solution but I don't have one . . .
The tears are flowing out of the frustration of being so helpless. I'm so sorry . . .
Watching all kinds of Dolphin videos now. My heart hurts . . . I don't know if I can handle this much longer . . . I can't sleep . . .
I just lost it. I could no longer be this man thousands of fight fans knew as a modern day samurai, the man with the unbreakable heart. The warrior that has never tapped in any battle and was never ever emotionally broken. Tearing ligaments, broken bones, and getting choked unconscious never came close to what the slaughter of these beautiful mammals did to me. I couldn't believe how tears constantly filled my eyes and ran down my face.
But for some reason it felt good. Like a hundred pound weight was lifted off my chest. My spirit was definitely broken, but in no way was it dead. I laid down on my bed as the tears continued to run down my face . . . I don't think I can remember the last time I cried myself to sleep.
December 6th: Day 11
Note: On Day 10 when I introduced the meat transporter (Mr. K) to the Sea Shepherd supporter (Ms .R), I found it weird that Ms. R got really tense and seemed on the edge. I wondered what it was, because Ms. R was totally out of her friendly, kind character. I later found out that Mr. K was one of the guys who had harassed her a couple months back. I couldn't believe the coincidence, but always believed that everything happens for a reason.
Mr. K was such a nice person to me . . . I began to wonder if that was just a front he put up with me. Nice guy or not, two males harassing a female is uncalled for in my book.
I could tell Ms. R was really shook up from the experience, and I felt so bad for her, so I gave her the option to cancel or postpone the meeting. She agreed to give it some thought, and I left it at that. I totally understood if she decided she didn't want to speak to this person, and I would be totally okay if she wanted to notify the police and turn him in. Apparently the police have asked Ms. R on numerous occasions if she’s seen the guy because they wanted to question him and charge him if they found it necessary. Ms. R could have notified the police soon after I introduced them to each other, but she held off in respect to me. I was grateful!
I woke up feeling drained and weak. The Sea Shepherd supporters were on their daily routine following the drive, but I couldn't get myself to go, for I was still not emotionally recovered from yesterday. I prayed in my heart that the hunters wouldn't find any dolphins or whales, and they didn't. All the banger boats went out and they all came back empty. That lightened my spirits a bit, but I still felt a little weary. I didn't leave my room and just surfed the internet and made some bracelets.
Then a little after noon I had a knock on my door and it was Ms. R. She was just checking up on me and asked me if I was okay. I was honest and told her not really, but the care and concern she showed to me lifted my spirits a lot!
We had a brief chat, and she told me that she wanted to go on with the meeting. She said she was hesitant, but expressed that if the meeting might help the dolphins, she would put her personal feelings aside. However, she did want to know what Mr. K planned to do to her the day she was harassed by him . . . It seemed that she personally didn't want to meet with him, but she would for the cause.
I set up the meeting for my room at 6 p.m. I thanked her for her kindness and the sacrifices she was making. She was on her way to make her rounds around the dolphin pens, the cove, and the harbor.
Until the meeting time I recollected myself, for I was to be the negotiator/translator and, by all means, I needed to be emotionally prepared for this very sensitive, possibly dangerous meeting. Time passed and I felt I should get out and get some fresh air, so I took a walk to the foot hot spring down the street. The weather was nice as I soaked my feet in the natural spring water, absorbing the serenity of the moment.
Before I knew it, time was up so I rushed back to the hotel only to find Mr. K in front my hotel waiting by some Sea Shepherd supporters.
"Oh my God!!!" I thought as I picked up the pace to get there sooner. Luckily they were very respectful towards each other, which gave me more hope that we would have a successful meeting.
I led Mr. K to my room and told the Sea Shepherd supporters outside the hotel to let Ms. R know that we'd be waiting in my room. We got to my room and even before the meeting started Mr. K thanked me for setting up the meeting. He told me that in all the years this problem has been going on, no one had ever offered this type of mediation. It was always discussions in group meetings where nothing was ever done except bickering and fighting. Never had there been personal man-to-man communication like this . . . and on top of that, in my hotel room???
I felt more excitement and anticipation than worry or fear. I really don't know why. Maybe it was because I really didn't realize the magnitude of what was actually happening . . . Or maybe I had so much confidence in my relationship with Ms. R and Mr. K that I couldn't imagine things going bad.
For the record, I’d asked both of them to get together to talk, and told them that if it went bad so be it. We would just be back where we started off. We had nothing to lose. On the other hand, if it went well . . . we could actually be walking a path never walked before, getting closer to a solution and, finally, peace for the dolphins.
Then we got a knock at my door.
I looked over at Mr. K and said to him, "Oh, they're here." He looked very excited as I walked to the door. I opened the door expecting only Ms. R, but to my surprise she was there with two other Sea Shepherd supporters. The other two Sea Shepherd supporters I trusted, and they were two very understanding and open-minded people. I decided to just let them in on the conversation, so I stepped back and let them in.
With all five of us in the room, the room seemed really small. The hotel room was a small humble room, not a place you would think a meeting that would concern a worldwide issue would take place -- but it was abut to happen. The Sea Shepherd supporters gave a nod of acknowledgment to Mr. K, and he timidly nodded back. There was a silence that gave me an uneasy feeling, so I decided to get to the point.
I brought up the infamous incident he’d had with Ms. R and had them hash it out. There were a lot of little misunderstandings and the lack of communication didn't help. I'll point out one example. During the altercation Mr. K's friend was so upset because he claimed he’d overheard Ms. R on the phone call them "Yellow Monkeys." I asked Ms. R about this and she was surprised. She said she never said anything like that. She didn't even know what the term yellow monkey meant, let alone that at the time she was talking in South African.
I relayed that to Mr. K and, just to show him how different the South African language was, I asked Ms. R to say, "Hi how are you. It's a nice day today," in South African. She said it, and then I turned to Mr K and asked him if he knew what language she had just spoken in. He unsurely answered, "English . . . ?" I chuckled and informed him that what Ms R just spoke wasn't English, so there was no way his friend heard her say "Yellow Monkey."
He looked shocked and instantly looked Ms. R in the eyes and began apologizing. He then began explaining that the resentment the two sides had for each other created so much tension that at just the sight of Sea Shepherd supporters, the trainers at the dolphin pen got apprehensive! He continuously apologized, and Ms. R and I both agreed on his sincerity as she accepted his apology from her heart.
They then began to understand that the lack of communication made understanding each other impossible, and the walls built by over-aggressive activists made interaction between both sides unheard of. Now that was over, Ms. R and the two other Sea Shepherd supporters began asking many assorted questions, many of which Mr. K couldn't answer, but he tried his best.
Then when the questions got more complex and Mr. K barely could muster up an answer, he had a suggestion. He said, "How about if I call a friend that is a trainer at a dolphin training center. She could probably answer all your questions." We agreed, so he instantly got on the phone and made the call. Listening to his conversation, I could tell that his friend was reluctant to come. He started off the conversation by sounding confident that his friend would come and got to a point where he was literally begging her to come. After some persistent persuasion his friend agreed and was on the way to the hotel. Mr. K was obviously excited and so was I.
Ten minutes passed before he got a call from his friend. He turned to us and said that his friend was here and that he was going to run out to the front of the hotel to go get her. Like a child going to Disneyland, he opened the door and off he went. Five minutes went by, then ten . . . We began to wonder what was going on. Fifteen minutes . . . twenty . . . There was definitely something wrong.
Then he finally came back, obviously frustrated and alone. His friend had apparently decided not to come. Everyone was disappointed; then his phone rang again. It was his friend, so I stuck out my hand and asked him to hand me the phone. I wanted to give it a shot; we had nothing to lose. I told her to please just give it a try. Even just for a mere two minutes. If it didn't go well, she could leave. I expressed to her that this might be her only chance to actually talk face to face with the Sea Shepherd supporters, so she might really want to consider this as an opportunity. I told her that she would have the chance to ask whatever she wanted and to express whatever she wanted them to understand about her and her situation.
I could tell she was still hesitant, so I told her to consider it, and if she decided not to come it was okay. Then I thanked her for even considering it and handed to phone back to Mr. K. We were disappointed and were about to close the meeting when Mr. K's phone began to ring. "That's his friend!!!" I thought. My heart began racing in anticipation of good news. Mr. K said all but one word on the phone, "Okay," as he turned to us and excitedly said, "She's here!!!" He bolted out the door and returned a minute later with a girl, one of the senior dolphin trainers.
You could see the sternness in her face, and she didn't even try to hide the fact that she really didn't want to be here. She made absolutely no eye contact with anyone, and sat at the very edge of the bed away from everyone. "Oh my God", I thought. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk. This was going to be more difficult that I thought! Again there were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence until Ms R suddenly turned to the trainer with a stern face and began to speak.
It was about the sick dolphin, Jiyu. Ms. R spent a lot of time at the water’s edge watching Jiyu and monitoring her health. Of course she had to do this from a distance so her information was limited. Many times she actually sat for six to seven hours at a time watching and praying for Jiyu. It was obvious there was a bond that was created between Ms. R and Jiyu, and there was no mistake that Jiyu was close to her heart!
She took out her iPad and played a video of Jiyu, and she asked in a stern voice, "What happened to Jiyu?" Upon seeing the video the dolphin trainer burst into tears . . . Everyone in the room froze, and all eyes were on the dolphin trainer as we all waited for her to speak.
She took a few seconds to collect herself and in a cracked voice she began to speak. "First of all," she said, "that dolphin’s name was Teru, and she was like my baby!" Then she began balling again. She took a moment to gather herself then continued, "Teru was a dolphin that was captured in the drive but he was born with a misaligned jaw. He was having a hard time eating, so we hand fed him until he could no longer eat. We then searched all over the world for a doctor that could operate on him, to no avail." She continued sobbing. "I had to watch her die . . . I felt so helpless . . . She was my baby."
The room went silent, for all of us in the room felt her sadness and could see that she really felt for Teru. Her words from deep down in her heart touched me deeply. This was not an act. I could see she really cared for the dolphins with all her heart, and I wished that all those who told me that all the dolphin trainers don't really care for the dolphins were there to see this trainer spill her soul to us.
She expressed the resentment she had for the activists who write inaccurate reports about the dolphins in captivity. She also stated that her father is an expert in dolphins and that she herself had been training the dolphins for over 10 years. So for an activist that has no expertise on dolphins to guess and write about what he or she saw from afar, to her it was insulting and ignorant.
Then one of the Sea Shepherd supporters said, "If you guys talked to us and gave us the true data on the dolphins we wouldn't need to guess. You guys try to hide everything from us."
Another obstacle the verbal abuse had created between the activists and the people of Taiji.
The trainer seemed to be loosening up and then admitted that she didn't like the killing and personally didn't eat any whale or dolphin meat.
A lot of information was being exchanged on other things, even the sick pilot whale still in the pen. After taking blood tests they found there was nothing physically wrong with the pilot whale so everyone agreed that it must be psychological. He was eating some days and not eating on others.
Then Ms. R spoke up. "If it looks like he may die, why don't you guys release him and let him die in the open ocean?" She had a point. I eagerly awaited the trainer’s reply.
Then she spoke. "We considered that, but because pilot whales have strong social bonds, to send him out alone to die seemed cruel. So if he did seem like he might die, we would rather be able to keep a good watch on him and give him as much love and attention as we can give to him until he dies. Better than dying alone." To me this made sense. I felt that the trainers do love the dolphins, but think in a much different perspective than the activists.
Then Ms R spoke up one final time. "I want to ask you one question," she said. "All I want to know is do you agree that the best place for the dolphins is in the open ocean?"
The trainer looked over at Ms. R, nodded her head and said, "Yes. I think so too." That was good to hear but frustrating to know there was nothing that was going to be done about it.
Note on Teru: Because of her misaligned jaw she developed an infection that began slowly melting the bone in her jaw. They couldn't find a doctor who would operate, so it got so bad that she couldn't eat and eventually passed. The body was turned in for an autopsy and was not taken by the hunters for meat as it was previously rumored.
It was getting late, and we decided to close the meeting. Both sides shook hands and sincerely thanked each other for their time. The meeting was over and all went well! I was happy and relieved at the same time, but a bit frustrated that we couldn't come to a concrete solution. We said our goodbyes to the trainer and Mr. K, and whet off for dinner at the same Chinese restaurant as the night before.
The dinner was great a Vegan Chinese meal that was tasty as well as plentiful. I planned to get back to my room early so I could make bracelets for my new Sea Shepherd friends, but a persistent, controversial, horrible driving Sea Shepherd supporter from South Africa wouldn't let me go back unless I went to a Karaoke bar with them. I really wanted to get back to the room, but there was no shutting her up so I gave in and went.
When we got there the karaoke bar was empty so we took one side and the Sea Shepherd supporters began to sing. About thirty minutes later, in walked a group of about ten Taiji residents. I cringed because it was obvious they people I was with were with Sea Shepherd because all the Sea Shepherd supporters sported their black T-shirts.
To my surprise the Japanese seemed like they didn't notice us until one of the Japanese men screamed out after his song, "It's Sea Shepherd's turn!" I was surprised as the man got up and brought the mic over to our side. Then the same persistent, controversial, horrible driving Sea Shepherd put in a song, got up in front of everybody, and began singing and dancing to her own delight!
The Japanese were entertained as they clapped and laughed with us. At one point a Taiji resident was singing arm in arm with a Sea Shepherd!!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing! First Lucky and Sea Shepherd had dinner, then the meat transporter and the dolphin trainer had a sit-down with Sea Shepherd, and now this!!! I felt a strong ray of hope pierce my heart!
This can be done. I leaned over to Ms. R who was sitting next to me and said, "This is a sign. This can happen. Look! Taiji residents singing arm in arm with Sea Shepherd!"
I wasn't sure if I was just witnessing the end of the hunt in the making or just a baffling coincidence. Whatever it was, it tickled my heart and put a big smile on my face!
After a couple of hours of karaoke we went back to the hotel, and I began making bracelets for my new Sea Shepherd friends. I wanted to give them a small token of my appreciation for their help and heartwarming kindness.
Rosie, Nicole, Erwin, and Bob . . . thank you from the bottom of my heart!
It was my last night and I was leaving Taiji tomorrow, so I stayed up all night and created a bracelet in memory of the fallen dolphins. The bracelet was made of power stones that give off a different power for each of the different stones. I created a bracelet that would both represent the drive and give power to the dolphins.
It is in honor of the fallen dolphins. I will throw it in the cove in honor of the dolphins and for hope that its power will somehow help the dolphins in their horrible fate.
Here is the reason why I made the bracelet as I did. The red jasper with the cross in the middle first is signifying the blood of the dolphins and is a call out to God to help his beautiful children of the sea. Also Red Jasper stands for a powerful protection against things that are not good for you, and it eases emotional stresses. I'm hoping this will help the dolphins to ease, even just a bit, their final moments in the cove. All jaspers help balance the emotional energy in the body, so I'm hoping this will also project to the dolphins.
The crystal next to the Red Jasper with the cross stands for the dolphins and, next to the cross, it signifies the blood from the dolphins. The two blue crystals stand for the ocean, and the two different blues stand for the open ocean where the dolphins come from and the shore where they are driven in.
The next 3 crystals emulate the white color of the bottom of the dolphins. The last little Red Jasper on the end means that in the end the blood of the dolphins flow red. Last, the tassels with the blue Crystal and the Red Jasper signify the mix of the ocean blue and the dolphins blood.
I will throw it in the cove because it is the dolphins’ final destination before they are slaughtered, and I am hoping the power from the crystals will help ease them spiritually and emotionally in their final moments. Also, the stones are charged up by the full moon, so once a month in the full moon the stones will be charged up to give power and emotional support for the dolphins.
I will pray for an unsuccessful drive tomorrow so that my last day in Taiji can be a pleasant one.
December 7th: Day 12 -- My last day in Taiji
I dozed off at 7am and got up at 10 am to good news! The banger boats were coming in empty!
Wow, I thought, what a great day to end my trip in Taiji. I packed my bags, checked out, and headed to the cove. When I got there, there was no one except for the riot police sitting in their car at the far end of the parking lot. I noticed they were staring at me, so I decided to confront them face-to-face. I walked right up to their car and said hello . . . Asked them what they were doing here, although I already knew, and they surprisingly were very nice. In fact they were fans.
Damn I almost wrote them off as assholes because of the way they would eyeball me every time I went to the cove or even drove by the cove. I was kicking myself in the ass again for judging too soon! I told them I was leaving today, but would be back soon, so I'd be seeing them again next year.
I the grabbed my video camera and made my way to the edge of the cove. Standing at the edge of the cove gave me a weird feeling, like there were many unrested spirits here. The dolphins’ spirits? Maybe.
I explained what the bracelet meant and why I was throwing it in the cove on the video, and tossed it in the middle of the cove. I wondered if it would actually help the dolphins emotionally in the last grueling minutes before they were killed. I wondered if they would actually notice it on the cove's bottom.
I stood facing the cove where my bracelet was and said a short prayer:
"Dear Jesus, in your name I pray. I pray to you today to first of all thank you for watching over me during my stay in Taiji. I also would like to ask you to have mercy on your angels of the sea, the dolphins and whales. If for some reason they must meet the horrible fate you have planned for them, please let my bracelet give them peace and emotional calm in their final moments.
“Please allow the dolphins and whales to forgive us human beings for not returning the love and compassion they feel for us.
“Please forgive the hunters of Taiji for not realizing what they are doing.
Last, please grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change . . . the courage to stand up and change what must be changed . . . and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen."
Recalling my last day in Taiji. Sat down the senior dolphin trainer and Sea Shepherds. Tears were shed as both sides expressed their feelings on various topics. There wasn't a 100% agreement, but there was a better understanding of each other’s views. More than there has ever been. The openness of the dolphin trainer and Sea Shepherds Rosie, Erwin, and Nicole made this all possible! It wasn't leaps and bounds, but it did create a light at the end of the tunnel! I just pray the momentuem created can continue!
Driving away from Taiji, I felt as though I was leaving a part of myself in Taiji. That's when I knew that I would be back . . . .
Taiji, I'll be back!