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Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Day In Taiji

Today was another dolphin free kill day!  Rumour has it that the Fishermen are on holiday until January 3rd. 

Went to Shingu (a city close to Taiji) yesterday for some Indian food at the mall....later stopped by  the grocery store. Interesting to walk around trying to make out what some of the foods are. Came across what looked like dove birds? 

Myself and the "Eyes on Taiji" crew jumped into the freezing Cove water for a swim at Dusk...feeding time for sharks(a very large Great White has been caught at least once in Taiji waters).  The deeper I swam into the Cove the darker and scarier the water. Someone knowing my fears about sharks grabbed my scream was probably heard throughout Taiji.  Soon we noticed vehicles pulling over...we began to think that maybe we should swim back as we were not looking for trouble.  They(?) were obviously finding our winter ocean the night, a little suspicious, oops, we had unintentionally set off alarm bells!  When we walked to the parking lot, we saw a truck with dark tinted windows.....we were being watched!  We drove off wondering if we were being followed; so a quick left turn was made by the driver.  We went to an Onsen to thaw out and later I accidently referred to the Cove as "the Cold".

Yesterday morning, peeked into the Tuna Factory.  When the fishermen and workers saw me they crossed their arms, strong body language that was saying "no visitors!". They were packing Huge tuna in coffin-like boxes and covering them with ice. A young guy came up to chat...which then drew in the other fishermen  which led to a private tour; but  did not want to take any photos out of respect for their wishes. Later, the young fisherman walked me to my he could practice his English. He asked me questions about surfing....and i asked him if he has ever tried it. He told me that he can not afford a surfboard or wetsuit: but that he really wants to surf. When we reached my hotel...he said "you're staying here?". Then one of the Dolphin Organizations at the hotel walked by and I said "hello" to them. He said "your friends?" ...he  went red and left soon after.

Walked around town later that day...bought a coffee at the train station, but the lady who sold it to me was a bit funny. Remembered she was a little funny last year as she did not want to do business with me. Went into several shops around there and could still feel her eyes closely watching me.

Later that afternoon, walking out from my hotel,  ran into the young fisherman again...and he asked if I would like to join him Monday to see a shark. Hopefully he is not planning to feed me to one:)...however, it was nice of him to ask and I said yes...think he is happy to have the opportunity to practice his English...and I am curious about this shark!.

Walking to the store....noticed a man sitting in a wagon-like car, starring as I passed by. Then he got out and I could feel him tailing me. Went to a store at the train station to buy some snacks....and when I came out, he was talking to the lady whom I had bought the coffee from earlier and looking my way.

*This morning, when I bought my coffee, the lady at the train station was very nice...even telling me that I was not dressed warm enough...told her that I was Canadian, so it was OK. Maybe she just had to get to know me a little better.  As I was saying before, many people here do initially put their guard up with foreigners.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yesterday's Morning, Afternoon and Evening In Taiji

Yesterday morning went to check the Cove with the" Eyes on Taiji" organization....They have been very helpful to me here...last year, I was having to take taxis which are expensive! Today we are at the tenth day of no boats going out looking for dolphin families to kill!
A path leading to a vantage point over the Ocean
This is the vantage point from which we can see dolphins being driven into the Cove

Yesterday, went for a long bike ride to a surf spot. Must remind myself often when crossing the street that the cars drive on the opposite side of the road here. The surf spot was decided to slip into my wetsuit and go for a quick dip into the freezing ocean.

Then biked over to the harbour where the tuna factory is....passed by all these fishermen...among them I recognized one of the dolphin killers who had been assigned to stick with me last year while the slaughter was happening. He was standing there with other fishermen laughing and chatting about me. Wonder if he remembered me from last year, if so, he was probably entertaining them by mentioning how like a Ninja, I was moving from bush to bush, trying to hide up on the cliff that overlooks the Cove....not realizing that they were watching my every move in a camouflaged shed......believe, he is one of the few who can speak English.

On a lighter note, mentioned the Onsen which is in a cave at a hotel to the "Eyes On Taiji" organization.  After dinner, they decided that they would like to check it out; so led them to the harbour where we waited to catch a boat to the hotel. Had to laugh a little at their uncertainty about my leadership.  As we waited in the dark for the boat, I pointed out across the water as to which hotel we were heading for. Have only gone to this Onsen Hotel during the it looked a little different at night with all the hotels lite up in the distance. However;  assured them that the boat would take us to the right one. When the boat arrived, we all jumped aboard...mentioned this was a different boat and that I preferred the other one. On docking...we all jumped out....then told everyone to jump back on!   It was the wrong hotel!  The Captain did not speak English, but when we said "Onsen" he motioned that the hotel had an Onsen. It was their first Onsen experience...and after we bought our tickets we were given the tiniest towels!  More like face cloths! We then went our separate ways (men and women separate) and i was left laughing thinking about their looks of apprehension.
View of the Harbour with Dolphin pens in the distance

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hanging with Taiji locals

I am second from left.  Hanging with locals from Taiji and Kii-Katsuura!

Some residents in Taiji and the surrounding area put their guard up when they see Westeners. Perhaps they have had some activists here who have behaved very aggressively over the dolphin drive issue. It is horrifying what happens here...but controlling one's anger and channeling it in a constructive way is perhaps a better approach; so that we do not alienate local people who are also against the slaughter. The community is tangled up in a very messy issue and to help the dolphins I think it is important to be sensitive to the local people as well; the people and the dolphins are interconnected. In the future, (I prefer to be optimistic) many dolphins are going to have depend upon the goodwill of the people of this community, not on the few of us who come and go.

Last night I met up with some local friends. We went to a popular restaurant in town for dinner....I always ate here last year as they made me feel at home and at one point, they were the only restaurant in town who would serve me.

As soon as we entered, everyone turned to look our way...was hoping to go unnoticed....but as soon as I whisper anything in English, all heads turn.

As we looked at the menu (I pretended to not read Japanese) my friend's husband looked at me deeply, slightly smiling, trying to find his English words. Our table of four waited for him to speak...he then blurted out "do you like whale meat?". My jaw dropped in disbelief that he was asking me such a thing! I may as well been shot in the heart with my expression on being asked such a thing. Not sure if his wife mentioned my position on this.   Or if he was amusing himself with my feelings on this issue..however, his wife became very upset with him....expressing very loudly that she was not impressed with his behaviour. This caused a little stir in the restaurant  and the restaurant owners threw over a glance of concern. To have my friend speak up for all to hear against eating whale meat in a Taiji restaurant made me very proud of her.

We then went on to order a bounty of vegetarian dishes which were sumptuously delicious. Before leaving the restaurant, the owners chatted with our group and my friend translated that the son of the restaurant owner said that " he remembers you from last year and that you are invited back anytime...and that he will prepare for you many vegetarian dishes". 

Onsen Hopping

Would like to start my blog with good news...apparently this is now the seventh day that no dolphins have been driven into the cove! Taiji is so wildly beautiful when it goes into this peaceful state. This place has  nature's power to become so much...if only....

Decided to spend time in the medicinal hot springs today. It is said that the Onsens of Kii-Katsuura are on  par with the Onsens of Shirahama which has built a booming tourist trade around their Onsens. I believe Eco-Tourism is what will help to save the dolphins in the end (Shirahama used to hunt dolphins too)...also tourism helped to save the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda, which were on the verge of extinction, along with the  anti-poaching patrols put in place by Dian Fossey.  After lunch...walked over to the harbour to catch a boat to the Onsens. Last year while in Taiji, would take this same walking route often and again I wave to some of the local store owners as I pass by. My favourite are the three cute ladies who wave to me from  my favourite bakery.

Hopped off the boat at the hotel. This hotel is huge and has many hot springs to choose from. After I paid my ten dollar fee, was told that I could try all the hot springs if I wished; so, went straight to the most popular onsen...under a cave looking out onto the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is like a maze; had to walk about a mile before finding the second onsen...smaller and more private. After missing the boat back, I decided to try the onsen on the top floor overlooking the ocean...took the six minute escalator to the top of the hotel. The view from the onsen was breathtakingly awesome. Beauty products were scattered about for the women...shampoos, conditioners, body soaps, face soaps, foot creams, skin creams, etc. Of course, I wanted to try everything...need it! Except, was unable to read the Japanese labels. A girl laughed because I was soaping myself up with conditioner...thinking it was body soap...and washing my hair with face soap!

On leaving, I entered the elevator with a nice Japanese family. The young boy was beaming, hugging a stuffed dolphin doll. His eyes were shining....I know the look, a certain look of when you have fallen in love with an animal. Guessing that he had just come from the Taiji Whale Museum.

Believe this boy would be ecstatic if he could see dolphins swimming free in the wild!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Taiji Bound - Day Two

Was wide awake at 4AM because of the time change. Went upstairs for breakfast buffet, which cost  25 dollars..over priced; so decided not to stay.  While leaving a Chef came out to speak with me. He is an Australian who has been living in Japan for four years. When i asked what brought him to Japan...he told me his wife. Told him that "I thought Japanese women were very beautiful".. guessing.the onsens are one of their beauty secrets. He asked what brought me to japan and I told him the dolphins...he said "'re going to Taiji...are you going to say STOP! STOP!?". Wish it were that simple I said.

The hotel let me keep my board bag in their storage area until i return to help lighten my load. Some attendants at the train station  helped me put my luggage on the train. Scoured the coast line for surfers, during my four hour train ride...did not see one! In fact the ocean looked flat....not to mention COLD. Seeing surfers catching waves gives me the same excitement as seeing dolphins swimming free.

Now checked into my Taiji hotel. There are two Organizations here...everyone is really cool.  "Eyes on Taiji. Org" kindly invited me over for some food they had cooked up.

Later, went to a tiny onsen around the corner. Now getting ready for bed...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Osaka!

After my grueling long 12 hour flight...collected my luggage....a large suitcase, a carry on suitcase and my surfboard bag. Able to mannage all this on a cart; but it was a struggle outside the airport. Brought back memories of last year...lugging my suitcases around the train station in Taiji and a kind guy offered to help....the "kind gentleman", I was later to discover, was linked to the dolphin killings.

Once I  had pushed my cart through the airport door....a cold wind almost knocked me over. Too late to leave my surfboard behind which United Airlines charged me $200.00 to bring.

After checking into my hotel in Osaka, waltzed over to a nearby outdoor mall. Was told that I would find an onsen there and it was amazing....about 5 hot springs and two saunas. In one sauna, you rub salt all over your body which gives you silky smooth skin. And the other sauna has these amazing white heavenly soft carpets to lie was so relaxing. You may also watch TV while in the sauna.

On the way out, noticed other interesting rooms. One in which you lie on hot salted stones. Will have to try that next time!

Now time to think about how I will get all my luggage with me tomorrow on the train to Taiji.
But, maybe worry about that tomorrow....,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mohawk Council Seeks To End Seal Hunt - UN Wants Global Network To Strengthen Indigenous Rights

Monday March 23, 2009
For over thirty years the Government of Canada has funded and endorsed the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. The annual Seal “hunt” taking place off the Atlantic coast is a cruel and unjustifiable abuse of Canadian tax dollars.

The Government of Canada is unwilling to admit their incompetency in providing safe and sustainable forms of employment for people living in these provinces. As a result, the atrocious acts against the seals continue in the form of “democrapitalism”.

Canada hides behind a democratic process adding to the misconception that Canadian citizens are in support of the barbaric “hunt” while the true culprit is capitalism protected by democracy. This is causing all humanity to sink to the subhuman behavior which is destroying the Earth and the necessary life forms that live upon her.

Many countries have recognized the cruelty of the hunt. Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Mexico, Panama, Russia, Ireland and the United States have all either banned seal products or made moves to do so, adding to Canada’s shame on a global level.Native people of Turtle Island have also become a scapegoat for the greed driven massacre.

The Inuit of the far North have hunted and praised the seals for many generations. However, they take only what they need to uphold their customs, beliefs and traditions.

Their way of life is now being used and compromised by the Canadian Government as propaganda to benefit a capitalist agenda, despite the fact that the Inuit do not participate in the commercial seal “hunt”.

As Mohawk people and world citizens we condemn these acts of horror being committed against the seals as it furthers the destruction of our Mother Earth adding to the global ecological crisis.

As stated by Prince Charles of Wales on March 13, 2009, “the threat of catastrophic climate change calls into question humanity's continued survival on the planet." Canada chooses to invest in the war on the planet putting pressure on an already fragile eco-system.Canada has many policies and practices that are deplorable to the environment.

Subsequently, in accordance with the Silver Covenant Chain under the Two Row Wampum, we advise that a first step in correcting this is to pass Senator Mac Harb’s bill to end the commercial seal “hunt” permanently.

The proposed bill calls for an end to commercial seal hunting while respecting treaty obligations and protecting the Rights of Native people. With this in mind we urge you to support the end of the commercial seal “hunt” and stand together in defense of our Mother Earth for the benefit of current and future generations.
In Peace and Friendship,

Secretary, Stuart Myiow
Mohawk Traditional Council
Box 531
Mohawk Territory

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Turning the Tide

When i return to Taiji this will be the same...having to bare witness to more killings. So the word gets out from me and others....and has been getting out for over 20 years since Hardy Jones first went to Taiji. Although the good news is that there are MORE people and organizations getting the word out because of the "The Cove" movie, Hardy Jones and Ric O'Barry.

From spending time with the younger generation directly and indirectly involved with the dolphin killings, some are having nightmares about it - secretly Wanting change; some are victims too...brain-washed or pressured into it by their families. There are many stories out there on individuals who turned their lives around to help protect the same species they once killed....many turned into heroes for those same animals. There are former African poachers who now protect gorillas.

So how do we turn the tables....get dolphin killers to protect dolphins(?) Although; i must admit there are Japanese dolphin killers who will not fact i think all the brutality has changed them for the worst; because they have had to harden themselves in order to kill what they know is an intelligent species. I am sure they could ribald us with stories of how they have been outsmarted by the dolphins over and over again. However; there is a younger group among the dolphin killers who are confused and who deny their emotions in not wanting to take part.

When surfing different breaks all over the world, discovered that localism can be a problem....but have not(yet) encountered that because of a few etiquette rules of the waves - and showing respect to the locals. I have tried to apply the same principles while in Taiji.

Also discovered some of the fishermen were bluffing with their aggressive approach like Silverback gorillas bluffing a charge (hopefully, I am not jinxing myself for next time) ...and then softened when i yawned or turned my back on it all (was told later that I could have been blindsided). (But confess, there were times when I wanted to clobber Personal Space; such as when he turned and gave a sadistic laugh my way after an entire family of dolphins were slaughtered).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wild Spirits

Last year it was a hopeless feeling watching families of dolphins being killed one after another..and not being able to prevent it.

Watching the dolphins in the Cove fear and fight for their lives...reminded me of Sosa's struggle...a chimpanzee who reached out for help whom I tried to rescue by informing many organizations of his plight. After Sosa's death i was visited by him often in my dreams - each time waking up to loosing him again. My dreams were memories of us...Sosa reaching out for me to chase him for our tickle game. One night,in a dream, while chasing to tickle him as usual; Sosa ran towards the dark ocean and jumped in.....i dove in after him, frantically searching for him underwater...only to wake up gasping for air. Not long after that dream....I was where it felt like the ends of the earth, Taiji, Japan..Alone...holding my breath in despair as the Dawn mist rolled over families of dolphins huddled together in the Killing Bay. I felt their struggles fade....then seep out of the Bay as a Dark Tide. After the killings, all i could do was search for any survivors. Sosa, has never since returned to me in my though his wild spirit had departed with that blood stream flowing out to the ocean.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hamilton Magazine....Summer Edition. This is the third time I have been in Hamilton Magazine; because of my sports... second time on the cover of Hamilton Magazine.

This time it felt more productive using my sports to bring attention to an issue which is important to me. This latest article was sent out to the Japanese Embassy in the States and Canada, to the Japanese Prime Minister, the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries, the Fishermen's union in Taiji. I believe that any media coverage on this issue will help to chip away at ending the dolphin slaughter and also hopefully make people think about our own Canadian mass slaughter of seals.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Hi! It has been awhile since i updated my blog.....But with the Killing Season beginning thoughts are with all the dolphins who will be herded into the Cove again.

Since returning home from Taiji, Japan last year....have been struggling with injuries... Taiji must have been the most stressful time of my life, the emotional turmoil of witnessing the slaughter still haunts me. And being there...feeling a bond with the families of dolphins that were killed...brought back the painful memories of when i was trying to rescue a baby chimp "Sosa" whom i had bonded with. Both species share a higher intelligence, both mental and human like in the way they are able to communicate and to pick up our emotions...even using a type of six sense to tune in to our feelings. It is devastating when these emotionally intelligent beings reach out for help...

Very glad to see more Organizations taking action to be there. Last year went to Taiji to lend my support to some of these groups; but instead found myself alone! But, ended up making friends with some of the locals...even a dolphin killer(unknowingly, which must have confused the police who were following me). Making these local friends made me realize that change has to come from the community and the mindset of the community. I think the seeds of Eco-Tourism have been planted and are hopefully growing...we must keep watering those seeds:).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dolphins of the Caribbean

After my doctor prescribed swimming for a back injury, I left for a small uninhabited Cuban Island for the healing ocean waters.

I landed in a tropical wonderland....miles of beach and ocean all to myself. Later in the week, decided to check out another beach. After a half-hour bumpy ride on a trolley.....(not fun if you have ruptured discs) finally came to a halt at a beautiful white sand beach with calm waters.

Walking towards the beach....i made out two dolphins swimming close to the shoreline beside an outdoor restaurant. They swam in a circle in a fenced off area. I walked to the edge of the water to get a closer look....and one tried to swim up as close as possible to say "hello". The dolphin was inviting me in...perhaps, because of boredom or for more fish....there was a sign that read "90 pesos to swim with dolphins". I have never paid to swim with dolphins.

As i talked to the dolphins from the shore....a woman busted on the scene with her toddler walking through the water...saying repeatedly to her child...kiss the dolphin! Kiss the dolphin!! The trainer intervened with a loud whistle which the dolphins swam towards.

Was told that the two dolphins were brought there about a month ago or so. I asked where they were from...he said the Caribbean Sea.

Learning that similar dolphin capture operations as in Taiji...are happening all over the world...and I keep stumbling upon it, even in the smallest and most unexpected of places.

Also, not only are there people who hunt dolphins for business....but there are people out there who hunt dolphins and seals for the thrill of the kill.

Please see below a posting i found on the internet:

We all know that the dolphin is a very smart animal. A little too smart if you ask me. But I discoved that while on a dolphin hunt near cuba that the slippery fish was adjusting their swimming patterns making them harder to track.Though the constant game of cat and mouse was frustrating, the trill of the chase was refreshing. Having participated in the northern Canada seal clubbing and the southern China panda shoot I have to say I found a rare challenge in the dolphin.

Many people parallel the intelligence of this murdurous mammal to that of human beings, so the only obvious conclution is that hunting the dolphin is the closest one could get to hunting another person. What a trill that would be.