Since my daughter and I returned from Japan this trip, we definitely feel we miss it. It felt different this time, maybe the fact that there were less activists, maybe the fact that the police seemed extra friendly and helpful, maybe even perhaps the warm and welcoming meeting that we had with the mayor.
This was my 7th stint in Taiji, and my daughter Imogen’s 3rd. She had handed in letters before, but they were just taken by one of the mayors members of staff, and we were told he would receive them. I doubt that he ever did. This time as you know, we walked in randomly without an appointment on Sept 1st, Japan Dolphin Day 2016, and miraculously we were told we would be granted a 5 minute meeting with the mayor. This turned into a very pleasant almost 30 minute meeting where we were given explanations on lots of our questions.
Who knows if he was lying to us? But then again why would he? He is right, the hunters are not breaking the law, they are granted permits by the government, and this is how they make a living. As his translator said, “This is not a game, not a play, this is the way these men make a living” And I know this is right. I know the captive industry drives the hunting, and I know the only way now that this is going to stop is if we can get the Japanese people to pressure the government to declare dolphin hunting and whaling illegal, as it is in most parts of the world. Will this happen? Who knows?
Japan is a country steeped in tradition, steeped in etiquette, steeped in good manners. You can not walk down the street without someone bowing to you or saying “Konichiwa”. They are a gentle respectful race of people and human beings. The West could in fact learn a lot about manners and etiquette from these people in the East, take a few leaves out of their books so to speak, about common decency and manners.
Yes the hunting of whales and dolphins is atrocious but there are so many other things in complete contrast that take my breath away, the beauty of the coastline, the countryside, the little houses, and quirky little streets. For instance people are gentle and want to know about you. They don’t scoff at you if you try to speak their language and you make mistakes, they are happy you try at least. I have found in other countries you are laughed at or ignored if you make an effort to speak the local dialect and mess up.
In Japan it is so clean, there is no crime, you feel very safe there. You can leave your car open and your bag inside and almost 100% be rest assured that it would be there when you return. This is unheard of in the Western world. They take great pride in their towns and keeping them landscaped and clean. They love their animals.
Yes there is a long standing tradition of eating whale meat, and now dolphin hunting. I don’t quite know how we are going to get to the bottom of this and change this practice, but it is unfair to slate the whole race, the whole country for the deeds of these handful of men in Taiji. The people are not cruel and mean in Taiji, you only have to be here for a few days to see the kindness in the eyes of the people here, and the fear they have for a lot of us who descend on their town every year. This is why it is vital we are respectful and gentle in our approach, that we try to understand one another on some level.
In the town Nachi Katsuura where we stay, one time I was rushing back to the hotel to get my bags to make my train. I realized I had no cash and I asked the lady in the restaurant next door called Deericious where the nearest ATM was. I ran to get money leaving my bags with her so I could pay the taxi driver. I could not take money out for some reason, and she paid my taxi fare. When I returned a couple of months later I went to pay her back the money for the taxi, and she refused outright to take it and took both of my hands in hers and smiled saying “Its okay”. It was such a touching kind moment and I feel forever indebted to her. In fact it has become our favorite restaurant for myself and my daughter Imogen when we are there.