Japanese Activists' Voices Grow Louder - Part II

             Miwa Hayakawa leads WWAWD-2010 rally, Miami (photo credit Alina Soto)

 "It's the Japanese people who have to do this, not outside Westerners. They have to take ownership of this issue. 
I have to be replaced by young Japanese people or housewives." 
~ Ric O'Barry, SaveJapanDolphins.org

by Samantha Whitcraft
November 9, 2010 - Miami, FL.

Back in September, just as the Taiji Dolphin Hunt season was starting up, again, we brought you the story of how Japanese people were starting to make their voices heard, by petition, at least. With our friends at Choices for Tomorrow ("Cruelty Free Living and Animal Advocacy"), a grass-roots organization reaching out to Japanese communities and individuals, we translated and compiled some of the strong words and feelings expressed by Japanese people boldly supporting the Futo Petition requesting that the Ito City Mayor and the local fishing cooperative stop their town from recommencing a dolphin hunt there. One Japanese petitioner commented, for example: 

"While making excuses using the words of tradition and culture, you sell off the wild dolphins to aquariums. You never give a thought about how short the dolphins’ life would be in aquariums with stress. It is as if slave traders. In Japan where food that could be fed to 30 millions people are dumped everyday, killing dolphins is not something to be allowed. Please stop the slaughter. I am shameful as a Japanese."

Then in October, we shared a Japan Times story about a growing local movement and petition to stop the building of an aquarium in a park in Kyoto, Japan that would house captive marine mammals, likely sourced from Taiji and other coastal dolphin hunts. The article stated, "...an anti-aquarium network of local, environmental groups continues to meet, demonstrate and fight the city in the courts."

And now, we find ourselves inspired and led by a Japanese anti-whaling activist in Miami, Florida. As a warm up, Miwa Hayawaka first spoke publicly at the Japan Dolphin Day Rally, with Ric O'Barry and Pete Bethune, at the Japanese Consulate, Miami on October 14th. We spotted her in the crowd and asked her if she spoke Japanese and she shyly replied 'yes'. When we asked her to speak she politely declined and was taken aback by the request, so instead, we asked her to translate a message to the Japanese Government representatives several floors above us. As Pete thanked the current Japanese administration for their 'hospitality' during his recent enforced 'visit' and advised them of his potential return should the dolphin slaughter continue, Miwa's expert translation and great sense of humor got the crowd energized. Next thing we knew, Miwa and Pete, together, were leading the crowd of 175+ in a raucous chant of "SHAME" in Japanese!

               Bethune, Whitcraft, and Hayakawa at Japan Dolphin Day-2010, Miami.

On November 5th, Miwa joined us again, this time at the Worldwide Anti-Whaling Day (WWAWD) Rally at the Japanese Consulate, Miami. This time, there was no doubt she had found her voice and would speak out strongly to save whales and against illegal whaling. She led us in several Japanese language chants and then shared a powerful story from her youth. The assembled crowd was quiet as she shared her memories of her childhood, her father, and the part of her culture she now stood in defiance of. In her own words, here is Miwa's story of the conversation she had with her father about whaling and her activism:

I remember that my grandmother always cooked whale meat dish for my family. It was one of my father's favorite dishes. I, of course, ate it. It was long long time ago...when I was a child. Eating whale meat was normal for Japanese family. It's like eating beef in this country. 

My father was a archaeologist which means he was always protecting and respecting Japanese history, cultures, and tradition. He likes to teach and talk about history of Japan. One day I asked him why we eat whale meat (and, at this time, I was already protesting for whaling), and he told me that our source of food came from ocean, because Japan is an island. Beef, pork, and chicken were very rare to eat in his life. Whale was really popular, because we could used everything of whale, even bones. He explained, we always respected and appreciated whales. We ate whale as a fish. After he finished taught me about history of whaling, he said he hasn't eaten it so much but wanted to... 

And then I told him about what I was doing -- protesting and supporting the anti-whaling movement. He was  surprised and didn't say anything and was quiet for awhile... and then...he said to me..."so you are against your own tradition". He was upset at that time. 

The next day, he started talk about how much he liked to eat whale meat BUT he said "Whatever you do, you are believing in what you are doing, so I respect what you are doing. I will try to stop eating whale meat." I was shocked at what he had said. And he added that "Anyway, your grandma past away, so nobody can cook it for me". I very much appreciated what he said. As an archaeologist, it was difficult for my father to think that his daughter was against our own tradition. And yet, I know he hasn't eaten whale meat since then. Thank you very much for my father!" 

These are the small victories and changes that ARE happening in Japan and in Japanese communities around the world. There is a quiet but strong growing movement of thoughtful and brave individuals who are the future of Japanese activism. Some of us have been privileged to meet, learn from, and stand side-by-side with some of them. Above all else they give us hope.

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  1. (Before I rant: let me remind readers that English posts are read only by people who read English. How many articles in Japanese have you read about this topic?)

    Please don't forget that the ordinary people who frequent aquariums and zoos are not likely to be sympathetic to rowdy protestors who try to stop them. They first need to be educated and convinced. Even aquarium staff are convinced they are doing a great job educating the public about wildlife!
    (I talked to some at Nagoya COP10...)

    Sea Shepherd has already seriously retarded the efforts some of us (such as Greenpeace) are making to persuade Japanese consumers to abandon ecologically unsustainable products. But if it's a choice between radicals and the status quo you know what the normal person in the street is going to choose. In a conservative culture like this, they are not going to stand up for anything which is going to single them out as extremist, any more than you can expect the average redneck to give up eating meat or driving a gas-guzzler because somebody yelled at him.

    We need your help to CONTACT Japanese people and INFORM them of the situation as we see it so we can CONVERT them. Not to hit them over the head with it.
    (Yes, it's a mission, and we need to be missionaries.)

    Confrontation leads to conflict.
    Conversation leads to conversion,
    and perhaps conservation!

    Most Japanese people have never heard of Taiji.
    Most have never deliberately eaten whale. Even fewer want to eat it again.
    But making a big fuss about Taiji (which is responsible for only 10% of the dolphins killed in Japan) puts the rightists into power with the weapon of "defending tradition", and drives people away from our position as defenders of the earth.

    I hope Miwa will contact me at my 野蛮人 account and lend us her obvious skills and energy toward bringing the average Japanese round to a more earth-friendly point of view, (in Japanese).

  2. P.S. from Simon.
    I didn't make clear that I've been resident here in Japan for the past 32 years. That's why my English is a bit funny! :-)

  3. It has been pointed out that I hadn't read the article properly. Guilty as charged. m(_ _)m

    Disappointingly, a re-reading of "the crowd of 175+ in a raucous chant of "SHAME" in Japanese!" confirmed my impression that confrontation is considered not only acceptable but commendable. I cannot agree.

    While agreeing totally with your objectives, I am disappointed in your information. E.g. that "Eating whale meat was normal for Japanese family. It's like eating beef in this country."
    This was only true during the postwar years when food was in extremely short supply. I can imagine that Miwa's grandfather may have had an affection for it but this is certainly not representative of the population of Japan today. Whale meat consumption peaked in 1962, declined quickly thereafter and disappeared from school menus in the 1970s, though it is now being brought back as "education in traditional food", by politically motivated bodies.

    Inspiring your members to protest the eating of whales is admirable, but to suggest that it is still a Japanese tradition is misleading.
    For more information there is plenty on the WEB. If you want Japanese info, I can find and translate it.
    The book "Whaling in Japan" by Jun Morikawa leaves much to be desired but still has quite a bit of useful information. He wrote it in English and published it in the UK, and it is not available in Japanese. Maybe that should be my next project...

  4. Agreed. Translating "Whaling in Japan" into English sounds like an excellent project. Please keep us posted. Thanks, Samantha

  5. It's only available in English!
    I hope we can get it translated into Japanese so the Japanese people will know what their government is up to.