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October 9, 2010

Report from Taiji: October 9

Culture and fiction:

diagram of the cove and Taiji located on a board at the park
diagram of the cove and Taiji located
on a board at the park (click to enlarge)

Today, we met with a man from Wakayama.  He and his wife have done research into the claims of “ food culture” and seafood.  From their research, we have learned some interesting things about this culture.

Up until about 200 years ago, there was very little meat eaten in Japan.  The bloody muscle tissue was considered unclean.  Tuna, which is a bloody fish, was likewise shunned.

It seems that the taking of whales by coastal subsistence fisherman has indeed occurred for several centuries in many parts of Japan.  It was done from small boats and by fishermen using hand thrown lances.  Whale meat was not a staple throughout Japan, but something consumed by small fishing communities.  It too, is a bloody meat.  The introduction of large deep-sea commercial whaling is a recent phenomenon and as such, cannot be considered to be cultural.  Most of the current population in Japan does not eat whale.

The killing and consumption of dolphins is even newer.  In Taiji, it goes back to the 1970s when the demand for captive dolphins took off.  The fishermen in Taiji learned that they could herd or “push” dolphins using sound into the small cove next to their village.  The dolphin trade brought a lot of revenue to the town.  These men were fishermen.  In the old days, local fish were caught using individual lures or small nets.  In time though, large commercialized fishing boats plied the waters gathering up all of the fish.  There were very few left for the local fishermen and so they turned elsewhere.

Dolphins leftover from the live trade were killed and eaten by the locals in Taiji.  As we have claimed by the fact the fishermen attempt to hide the slaughter, we now add this historical research in coming to the conclusion that killing and eating dolphins is not cultural.  It is a very recent development.  It may supply a few jobs and some protein to a very small segment of the population, but it is not cultural.  Killing dolphins can be shut down without having any impact at all on the cultural traditions of Japan.

On this day, the village of Taiji celebrated its autumn festival.  There was a parade and a highlight of this event was the honoring of the old coastal whaling traditions and reverence at a shrine.  There was a significant storm in Taiji today as well.  Quite literally, it rained on their parade.  More importantly perhaps is the significance of this storm.  Could it be that the earth and the ancestors are telling the modern dolphin slayers that their acts are shameful and that their reverence is rejected?  That is the voice I hear in the rain.

We need your help.  Spread the word, send donations, join in the international day of protest, and avoid all travel to Japan except to become a Cove Guardian with us here in Taiji.  To join us (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk) in Taiji, write to me at  I will get back to you, but please be patient.  I cannot keep an eye on the Cove and answer email at the same time.

Click here to learn more about the international day of protest on October 14, 2010.

Follow my daughter’s blog of these events. She has a video on Youtube of her visit yesterday to the Fishermen’s Union in Taiji.

John and Jackie have begun a blog about their experience here.

Tarah Millen will be joining us here in November.  She has started a blog about her endeavor.

Carolyn has also made a commitment to join us in late November and she too has started a blog about her journey.

For the Oceans,

Scott West
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society