by Ric O’Barry
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project
I arrived in Tokyo last night and was promptly pulled aside by Japanese immigration authorities and questioned for several hours. I was a bit concerned they would not let me into the country, but they finally let me go, and I made it to my hotel.
Not a very nice welcome!
You’ve probably seen the stories in the newspaper or the video on television: The police in Taiji made a big splash a month ago by holding “drills” in Taiji to “protect” the dolphin hunters from foreign interference.
Wakayama Prefecture Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka was quoted by Associated Press as saying: “We understand that people have different views about dolphin hunts in Taiji, but we must crack down on actions such as harassment, slander, vandalism and trespassing, which clearly constitute crime.” Police raced around in boats and practiced arresting protestors seated on the ground.
This is all public theater, of course, which the Japanese do on a big scale. In the past in Taiji, when I have been there, there have been maybe two to six policemen around at any one time. The AP reports one hundred policemen took part in these drills. I’m pretty sure that is about ten times higher than the number of activists who have ever shown up at the Cove at one time!
I’m heading to Taiji for the Sept. 1st beginning of the hunt season with a delegation of people (about two dozen – a new record!) from eleven countries. And, of course, we do not intend, nor have we ever, sought to “harass, slander, or vandalize” the dolphin hunters. Since the Cove is in a national park, it is hard to understand why “trespass” would break any laws. In any event, we have no intention of trespassing on Sept. 1st. In fact, we sent a letter to Wakayama Prefecture, to the Chief of police, stating our intention to come to Taiji and to cooperate with the police.
It may be that the police are indeed trying to crack down on our efforts to expose the bloody slaughter of dolphins. They may have new techniques to discourage us, such as blocking our bus from entering Taiji or stopping us from visiting the Cove. We will just have to see what they have in mind when we get there.
I decided long ago (and this is my 7th year in going to Taiji for the dolphin hunts) that it was not worthwhile getting arrested in Taiji. That would simply mean we would be barred from re-entering Japan in the future, and all our efforts to expose the dolphin hunts would end. So we obey the laws. Up until this year, I have had very good relations with the Japanese police, and I have always said they have been very fair. This year? We will have to see.
Keep an eye on our blogs here for updates on our Save Japan Dolphins trip to Taiji.
Thanks to all who are working towards making Sept. 1st a day to remember!