Home is where the heart is

Today is a perfect summer’s day in Perth, on Australia’s west coast. Late morning and it’s already a somewhat muggy 33 ° C and a far cry from the brisk 7° daily temperatures in Taiji. My washing line looks comically unusual for a mid-summer’s day with it’s array of hoodies and winter gear baking in the bright sun. I smile to myself as I make the correlation. It is out of place. Like me.

A panoramic view of Taiji harbour

I’ve now been back from Taiji for four days and I am disconnected, physically and emotionally. The physical side is perhaps a little self-inflicted and maybe one day I will tell the full story. Suffice it to say the cliffs around the cove area are steep and I “took one for the team” with a knee injury! I joked to a couple of the other activists – I wonder if I can sue the Taiji town council?! It is the emotional disconnect that concerns me more. Driving back to Osaka was heart-wrenching, and as my mid-morning flight climbed out of Kansai airport on a perfect winter morning, I could only stare fixedly out past the mountains to the distant point where I knew Taiji lay, before the aircraft banked lazily and  hid the coastline from view, as if closing the curtain on my adventure. I thought the feeling may pass as I re-adjust to “normal life”, but even today it lingers on. If home is where the heart is, then right now I’m a resident of Japan’s picturesque Wakayama prefecture.

Snow falls in the mountains above Taiji

My devotion on the shrine wall - Hirou Shrine

Nachi-cho temple with waterfall in background

There is so much more that needs to be said with regards to the dolphin drives. There is so much I would like you to hear and to consider, and in the coming days as I collect my thoughts I will share these with you.

For now I would like to share some insights from an email I sent the other day :
“In any situation where there is a conflict of opinion, I always try to take the approach of trying to understand the other parties side, so my intent in Taiji was to firstly bear witness to the slaughter, but also to learn as much about the culture and people as I could. In doing that I can say that I fell in love with Japan and it’s people! As you mentioned, they are indeed polite…I think I have a sore neck from bowing so much! I learned as many handy phrases in Japanese as I could and spoke Japanese as much as possible, and they recognised and appreciated my efforts to pay them that respect. It left me wanting to learn more of their language to tell them they didn’t need to run around after me and treat me as something special!
Their spirit made me realise something, with regards to the dolphin situation. They genuinely don’t understand why we are so upset and concerned about the dolphin slaughter. Japan relies heavily on the sea for their food…simply put, they see the dolphins as fish, and so they draw the parallel with westerners slaughtering cows. Although that argument is fallacious for a couple of reasons, I can see why they make that connection. The road to understanding and change will be a long one, and will involve the voices of youth – the younger generation of Japanese. The winds of change are starting to blow in Taiji. And as far as western input goes in this process, I think the cause will be won with love and understanding, not hate and aggression.”

For Japan’s wild dolphins and those in captivity.



4 responses to “Home is where the heart is

  • Louise Mauter

    Thank you so much for your advice, you traveled with such an open mind, you formed your own opinion. Just because they do not understand why the rest of the world is upset, does not justify their cruel and barbaric acts. Maybe the youth is the answer, but the dolphins need help now, it is hard to not show emotions that are sometimes true anger. By the time the youth are old enough to speak up, thousands, and I mean many thousands of dolphins will have already died and taken from the worlds oceans. Who is to say that these kids will be able to speak out more freely than people today. I do not believe that we can put our eggs in that basket. The world is angry, people are begging for this to stop. Japan will have to listen at some point. For now, I do not think that hating this situation, or getting mad is wrong, emotion is raw! Sometimes it is just too hard to be nice!! What they are doing will have effects on the oceans in my lifetime and my childrens, I have a right to get a little pissed off!

  • Len Varley

    Thanks for your thoughts Louise and let me say that having been a first hand witness of all this senseless slaughter, you probably have no idea how hard it is for me personally to hold back feelings of anger and resentment. But my anger alone will not change this situation. It is how I choose to channel those feelings that will make the difference. So I re-direct that anger – to speaking out, to committing myself to travel to the “front line” at Taiji, to educating people and getting the word out. What you are seeing in things like my blog is my anger and my grief at the situation transformed into something (hopefully) positive. You are absolutely correct when you say that just because they don’t understand doesn’t make it right. You are so right. The next steps are to work into the consciousness of the Japanese to make permanent change. I have committed myself to saving the life of cetaceans. I know intimately how much effort, in blood sweat and tears, and sheer hours of time, goes into rescuing and rehabilitating these beautiful creatures when they strand. I stood by for them in Taiji as they were slaughtered within literally minutes. Yes Louise, I’m angry. And now I carry an emotional scar as a result of choosing to be there for them. But I’m ok with that as it’s worth it to stop this. I intend to commit myself to it until this senseless slaughter stops.

    • Louise Mauter

      I have a 6 year old son. I am trying to teach him that emotions are not wrong. It is what we choose to do with them that can be the problem. I run every day, it is my survival. I get rid of my anger there, but truth be told, I get angry!! I do not hate the japanese people, and I do not believe in boycotting Japan. I do believe in education!! The more that people know, the more that they will get involved. I have talked to our local schools to get the kids involved, I am going to speak next month to my sons boy scout troop. I am trying to get our college here involved. I will talk to anyone who will listen, I mean anyone!! I think yesterday was a day where some doors were not open, and my dedication to saving the oceans was hitting some brick walls. Well, today, I picked up my big girl pants, and I am back at work doing what I can do. And guess what? I was able to talk to someone who didn’t know about the slaughter, didn’t know about how dolphins are taken into captivity. She wants to help. One more for the dolphins!!! And she has a lot of friends that she wants to share the dolphins story with!!! These are the days that I thank God for helping me be at the right place at the right time.
      I wish I could afford to go to Taiji, I am hoping to next season. For now, I am more than grateful for all that you guys do, have done, and will continue to do. I cannot even tell you how proud of you that I am. And I mean that. You went with an open mind, you saw for yourself! I think that I am a little more emotional, I have an opinion already, and if I am going to go, I should try to be more like you.
      Again, thanks for your posts! I do enjoy them!

  • Len Varley

    Hi Louise
    I’m really heartened by your comments. It’s so great that you are getting the word out to others who are not aware of the situation. There are times when we need to make a stand and speak out and I believe this is one of them. There’s no going back once our ocean ecosystem is destroyed. I also admire the way you’re teaching your son – my parents were “older generation” and it has taken me years to learn that it’s ok to express emotions.

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