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The power of film

Following my blog about the Australian town of Broome and its decision to end its twin-relationship with Taiji in Wakayama as a result of a documentary movie made about the slaughter of dolphins that takes place in Taiji every year, JapanProbe tells us that anti-Japanese feeling has been growing because of this documentary.

The Australian media is reporting that there has been an surge of hate directed at Japanese people in Broome Shire, a town that had a sister city agreement with the Taiji, a town in Wakayama prefecture. Anger at Japan forced the town to dissolve its sister city agreement and now graveyards are being targeted

Below is a link to an “Open Letter to the People of Broom”. This letter is by the director of the movie “The Cove“, Louie Psihoyos. In the letter, Psihoyos points to another reason why the dolphin slaughter is a bad idea. If this is true, it is strange that it has not received more attention. Unless you think that dolphins are more important than humans.

The Cove exposes not just a horrific yearly hunt, but humans knowingly poisoning other humans by slipping dolphin meat into the food system. Dolphin meat is through-the-roof toxic because of high levels of mercury, the most toxic non-radioactive element in the world. Dolphins have anywhere from five to 5,000 times more mercury than allowed by law.

Despite this, the Taiji mayor and his council had a scheme in place to distribute toxic dolphin meat to school systems all over Japan. Ric O’Barry, his organization Earth Island Institute/Save Japan Dolphins and my organization Oceanic Preservation Society had a small hand in ending that dreadful scenario through the help of two Taiji councilmen, one of whom had children in the school system. They tested the meat and found it had more than a dozen times more mercury than allowed by Japanese law. They demanded the meat be removed from the school system.

The same website that posted the “Open Letter” also posts about Japanese newspapers picking up the story.

Japanese language newspapers reported on the dolphin slaughter in Taiji for the first time yesterday. Even though the Japan Times had previously covered the dolphin hunt in Taiji in its English language version, Japanese language papers have never reported it. The story that finally broke the barrier was the news that Broome Shire, Australia will break its sister city ties with Taiji because of the dolphin slaughter that takes place there each year.

This is a typical example of outside pressure, a concept called “gaiatsu” 外圧 in Japanese. It is well recognized as an effective strategy, because Japanese decision-making processes together with group dynamics, means that changes are difficult to effect. Given the “shame culture” of Japan, outside (i.e. foreign) pressure can often work to effect change more quickly, by using “shame”: “look at what other countries are saying about us! We had better do something!”

The article links to several Japanese-language articles, but the links are bad, except for this one.

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Broome tells Japanese city to stop dolphin slaughter

Location of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture.
Image via Wikipedia

Last semester, we read in our textbook about the Australian town of Broome.

Well, Broome was in the headlines today, in an article in the Japan Times. Broome is apparently twinned with the city of Taiji in Wakayama. The two cities have a long history: people from Taiji emigrated to Broome in the early 20th century to teach the local people how to dive for pearls.

It appears that Taiji is now famous, or infamous, for an annual slaughter of dolphins. This slaughter has been given a great deal of negative publicity, and this year, despite the long history and the close ties between Broome and Taiji,

The local council in Broome voted unanimously Saturday to send a warning to Taiji to end its dolphin “harvesting,” council head Graeme Campbell said Monday.

At the same time, a documentary has been made about the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter, and has already been screened in the US. The English version of the Asahi newspaper has the story:

A U.S. documentary film that features footage of the annual slaughter of dolphins in a tiny cove in Japan has stirred waves of controversy here since its release at the end of July.

Moviegoers who have seen “The Cove,” directed by Louie Psihoyos, said they were stunned by the cruelty of the killings, captured by concealed cameras.

Many newspapers have blasted the traditional coastal whaling practice in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, which is not subject to the International Whaling Commission‘s ban on commercial whaling.

Map of Japan with Wakayama highlighted
Image via Wikipedia
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