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May 19, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Kushiro

Whaling boats in KushiroWhaling boats in KushiroIt had been reported in the Japanese news that coastal whaling has begun out of the harbor at Kushiro, in the Hokkaido Prefecture. The reports stated that the two coastal whaling boats from Taiji would be participating. So on May 11, 2011, I landed in Sapporo and drove the 314 kilometers to Kushiro. I was alone. But I really was not alone because the government of Japan decided to spend a whole lot of their taxpayers’ yen to have me followed. You would think they would have many more important things right now on which to spend their money than following one very obvious Sea Shepherd member. It is a testament to how much concern Sea Shepherd causes the government. They truly do not want the world to be informed of the reality of the killing that occurs at the hands of a few Japanese miscreants.

They are very amusing, these Japanese security forces who practice the art of surveillance. You would think that for all the money they are costing the taxpayers of Japan, the taxpayers would get a better product. But no, these guys are not well prepared for the tasks assigned to them. Nor do they intend to be seen. They went to great lengths to “hide,” and when I would turn the tables on them, which I often did, they ran and scurried like insects.

I first noticed I was being followed shortly after I left the airport in Sapporo. I was surprised by the attention and so put these guys through a couple of counter surveillance moves to test them. Yes, they were following me, so I next used my skills to lose them.  What was more fun though, was that I was able to come up behind them and give them a shock and taste of their own medicine. These guys hate to be photographed, so I did the only thing I could - I took their pictures.

Later on, another team in another vehicle picked me up. These too I lost. In Japan, a westerner has to surrender his passport to the hotel desk so they can make a photocopy.  The clerks then advise the local police that a westerner has checked in. So I was not surprised the next morning when I had a tail from the hotel. I turned on these guys and chased them away. I spent the day conducting my own surveillance of the harbor areas of Kushiro. I was looking for the whaling vessels and getting familiar with the lay of the land. I had nothing to hide for I have promised to uphold the promise that Captain Watson made to the police back in 2003. He said Sea Shepherd would not send anyone to Japan to break Japanese law. Periodically throughout the day, I would stumble upon one of these security teams. I counted five at work that day. While I had nothing to hide, I still went through the effort to lose them. It was great fun.

In the end, I did locate the whaling boats after they returned from a hunt. A deep fog had descended upon the harbor. When they realized I was waiting for them at the pier, they untied their boats and took off again. I found them later too. And yes, there were more surveillance teams running around. One of the main guys from the Taiji Fishermen’s Union (FU) was there, as were a number of other familiar faces known to us from their killing of dolphins in Taiji. These men travel a long way for the thrill of killing.

Faces of Evil from Taiji Faces of Evil from Taiji

Faces of evil from Taiji

The next morning, I quickly chased away my tail and went to work photographing the harbor areas. More surveillance teams appeared on the scene. It was then time to head back to Sapporo so I decided to lose them all and let them spend the rest of the day looking for me in Kushiro. I was halfway back to the airport when a team came up on me.  They must have had teams stationed along the way. I played with these guys a bit and then pulled into a rest area. What a surprise for them as I found four other teams staged in this rest area. I went to work driving and walking around with my camera. They scurried hither and yon.

Finally, they gave up all pretense of hiding and just followed. If I pulled over, they pulled over somewhere behind me. If I got out of the car and walked back to them with my camera, they took off and waited for me up the road. They were cautious enough though that I was able to lose them near the airport. So instead of taking the car back to the rental place, I took it to the airport and parked there. I checked into my hotel and left the teams out looking for me for a while. But of course, once I checked into the hotel, they were notified.

Three hours later, they were waiting for me at my car and followed me to the rental place.  Two teams then followed the shuttle bus I was on back to the airport and when the bus dropped me off, a guy got out of each car. I could not help myself, so I turned on the camera and walked back. Both cars took off with one even squealing its tires. I then went into the airport where I found these guys lurking in a bookstore. I started filming one of them who took off. Once I challenged him, he started running.

I identified and photographed a couple of surveillance guys the next morning on my way to the gate. When I landed in Osaka, I picked up a tail and I photographed him as well.  Finally, I went to the counter and got my tickets for my return to the United States. They stayed on me until I boarded the plane. In all, I identified 20 different vehicles and several individuals involved in the surveillance. I know that large of an effort could not have been cheap for the government.

The Japanese authorities just do not know when or where Sea Shepherd will appear. We have been told that the authorities back in Taiji are extremely worried about more attention this fall. They are even hiring a translator after telling us we needed to speak to them in Japanese. The fact is that we have no desire to talk to the killers or their supporters. I told the mayor of Taiji all he needed to know is that Sea Shepherd will not compromise with them. They must stop their shameful behavior once and for all. These guys will not stop killing simply because we ask them to or if we become their friends.  They will only stop when the government tells them to.

Continued pressure from the civilized world on the nation of Japan for allowing these atrocities to happen including the dolphin and pilot whale slaughter and capture in Taiji, porpoise slaughter in Iwate, and whale slaughter in Hokkaido, will bring about change. It will take time, but it will work. The thousands who wrote and called the embassies this last year made a difference. We know they are back to their killing ways during the month of May in Taiji. We know they are killing whales off of Hokkaido now. Call and write every day this month. You are making the difference…thank you.

Scott West

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Scott West followed, then turns the tables

Video credit: Sea Shepherd (2:10)


Surveillance team memberSurveillance team member HarpoonHarpoon
Whaling boats from Taiji Whaling boats from Taiji

Whaling boats from Taiji