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.