The best place to start a story is at the beginning, and I have a very long and eventful story to tell. Starting with when we woke up.
We woke up at 5am, ate a Japanese style breakfast and hit the road. It took us a total of seven hours to get to Taiji from Wakayama. I love road trips! I have been on more then my fair share over the years, and let me just say that this was the strangest one yet! Nothing bad or weird happened, it was just the fact we were driving through miles and miles of Japan, witnessing a entirely different culture. We stopped at this adorable little bread shop, were they actually made the bread there where you could see. We got some doughnuts and cheese bread and started back on our journey. The cheese bread was amazing! I didn’t know that the Japanese made such amazing bread and doughnuts! You wouldn’t think that, but they do. It’s the best cheese bread I’ve ever had.
About an hour into our drive, Matt Smith, a Sea Shepherd supporter who answered one of Paul’s calls to come and be the eyes and hears of what is happening at The Cove, called us. He said that the Japanese Right-wing Nationalists were screaming his name and information through a bull horn, accusing him of being responsible for the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He was being accused of something so extremely horrific, because he was an American citizen.
My dad and I got to talking after this conversation. I mentioned that I have never seen a Dolphin in person before, and how the first ones I will see, will either be captured or slaughtered. He said I was very brave for coming here and being prepared to witness that… but what is being brave? I mean, I know the dictionary term for it… but what does it feel like? Right now I can’t tell if I’m brave, or naive and stupid. I am well aware of the danger being here, I can be arrested, deported, banned from the country, or a Japanese fisherman may decided to attack me. I highly doubt they would go to that extreme with me though. I am a minor, I’m American, and I’m a girl. I’ve always been frustrated with my age, because I can’t go and do most of the things I want to at sixteen. But now being a sixteen year old girl … that might just save my butt! I guess I am very brave… or maybe the reality of all this hasn’t hit me yet. I’m realizing more and more every hour, just how greedy the fishermen are. And they do not like it when something gets in the way of that next paycheck.
When we first arrived to Taiji, the first thing we did was drive directly to The Cove. It’s surreal. We pulled into the parking lot, and we walked over to these two fishermen talking with an American man, we figured that was Matt. The hill we were standing on was a perfect view of The Cove (not the slaughtering place, but the body or water itself). 80+ dolphins were being held in a small area that was surrounded with netting. You could see and hear them all panicking. They were slapping their tails against the surface, clicking, and screaming moving around in this small ball they formed in the middle of the net area. It was so hard to watch. And honestly I have absolutely no words for how it made me feel. In my links section of this blog, you will see my youtube “KahakaiGirl” the video is uploaded there. Come up with your own words for it. It’s just wrong.
Within eyes sight, there was the Whale Museum. That was almost sickening. Apparently you can go read about Whales, then walk half a mile to watch one be slaughtered. The fishermen we walked into, were very polite. They shook my hand, and told me I was welcome there… that was unexpected. I was prepared to be spat at, screamed at, and trying to walk around with a bunch of fishermen around me that had no sense of personal space. But it’s a cultural thing, everyone is very polite, and kindness is huge here. (Not always as we have seen from most footage there).
We went into town, and spent the next hour with the information booth trying to find a affordable hotel, with internet and food. We found one… but we are only in this one for two days. A lot of traveling from place to place going on here. It’s good for me though, I’m seeing more and more of Japan everyday, and that will only make my senior project more interesting.
After we got the hotel room, and ditched our stuff and headed for the Shingu city police station. Sea Shepherd had received some very disturbing death threats. They said that any Sea Shepherd member that walked into the country would be killed. I went in recording the conversation, we were both prepared to be arrested. My father being apart of Sea Shepherd, and me because I was with him, and I had lots of cameras. When we first walked in, there were three police officers standing behind the counter, non of them spoke english. One man new enough to call someone else who could help us. In the mean time, we had conversations looking for translations in books etc.
By the time someone was there that spoke enough english to understand what we had to say, there were almost seven police officers, standing behind the counter, staring at us… we must have completely thrown them. Here are two white foreigners reporting threats of death, not what the expected walking into work today. The one man who was able to understand us and helped us out, knew Sea Shepherd really well… and was quite surprised that Sea Shepherd was there. They took our information, photocopied our passports, and told us they would call us because they needed to wait for someone who could translate all the English to move forward in whatever they were planning to do.
They sent us on our way… however, when we were walking out of the building another Japanese official (who looked like the guy in charge with his clip bored and everything), was talking to the cops. He saw my dad’s shirt and seemed pissed. His attitude was not friendly at all. It didn’t phase me, I expected behavior like this. But as we were walking to our car, we got a bit of a scare. One of the police men started to call us back. Him and the “in charge looking guy” were standing on the front walkway. Here I am, walking towards this angry looking man trying to mentally prepare myself to be arrested, or try to find my way back to the hotel because my dad was arrested. But the “in charge guy” mumbled something to his officer, and they shooed us away!
We got in our cars, and as we drove off we watch two of the police men get into a White Sedan and start to follow us. They followed us for miles, then we pulled over so I could take some pictures of the water. They kept driving but as we got further down the street they pulled in behind us. It’s official. We are being followed. I guess I can get used to my picture being taken, and all my actions being filmed for the next two months. Thats comforting.
We met back up with Matt and headed straight for The Cove. It was getting really dark… By the time we were at the Cove the sky was black. The moon and stars were shining so brightly though! It was beautiful. The air smelled like a hot day on the beach, and crickets were booming with sound all around us. But in the distance you could hear 80 dolphins screaming for freedom. We walked up to the same hill we were at before, and fought the urge to want to cut all those nets. But that won’t do us any good right now. The fishermen have said they plan on not killing dolphins the entire month of September, but are only driving them into The Cove to sell to swim with dolphin programs. One fishermen even told Matt no dolphins will be killed tomorrow. At least I can sleep tonight knowing that the lucky dolphins will be set free…. the rest will suffer a fate worse then death. Captivity.
We were being spied on by fishermen and a single police officer. But once again, all we did was stand there and do nothing. As the time past, more and more fishermen were arriving to check us out. They were walking up and down the street, shinning lights in the water looking for swimmers, and collecting in the parking lot where are car was.
I’ve never been so scared to walk to my car before, there were so many dark corners I didn’t know who or what was around. Matt was shinning flashlights everywhere to ensure it was safe to walk further, and my dad and I were filming the police and fishermen we could see. I felt like I was in a movie… This whole experience it surreal.
After we left we came back around and I took a picture of all the fishermen standing at the railing, they did not like the flashing camera in there face. But hey.. they had my picture, I have there picture.
We left and headed back to the hotel. We walked a couple blocks and found some yummy soup. I should go now though, I have a early morning. We plan on being at the cove at 6am to document what happens to the dolphins. New pictures should be posted. But we are currently save and ready to document some more.
For the animals,