Monday, August 31, 2009

September 1, 2009: Return to Japan

By Richard O’Barry, Director
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Return to Taiji – On September 1st, the dolphin killing in Japan is scheduled to begin again in this town.

I’ve arrived in Kansai Airport on August 31st, one of the official entry ports for Japan, near the venerable city of Osaka. It was a long flight from Miami.

When we first decided to return to Japan and drive to Taiji, the “little town with the big secret” depicted in The Cove, I wasn’t sure if I could get into the country at all. Would the Japanese officials hassle me? Would they refuse me entry and put me on an airplane back to the US? Would they arrest me?

It was a big risk, but I vowed to be here for the opening of the dolphin slaughter season, come what may. Thousands of dolphins are destined to die, unless we continue our efforts to stop the killing NOW.

Fortunately, none of our fears happened. We of course had some back-up plans and phone numbers for Japanese lawyers, if the worst happened. And we had to contend with a small typhoon moving through Japan that delayed our flight an hour. But fortunately, I am here on the first leg of our return to Taiji.

With me are my son Lincoln O’Barry and a film crew. We are working on a TV series following up on the success of The Cove.

We also are hosting some additional media representatives, such as Associated Press. Since the release of The Cove in August in the US, the story of the dolphin slaughter is now big news throughout the world. The Cove, still being shown in a few theaters in the US, opens over the next two months in Europe.

Also with me is Mark Palmer of Earth Island Institute, one of the international member organizations of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. Mark and I will be doing a regular blog while here in Japan.

We are not sure what we will find in Taiji over the next few days. The town on the coast is a four-hour drive from here. Again, will the local authorities try to arrest us when we arrive tomorrow? We really don’t know. It is likely that the tension in the town will be really high this time.

Just two weeks ago, the town of Broome, Australia, decided to suspend its sister-city ties with Taiji, until the dolphin killing stopped. This was tremendous news in Japan, and many national newspapers in that country, that have refused in the past to cover the dolphin slaughter, suddenly featured this brave action by the Broome Shire Council on their front pages! We feel very pleased that we have broken the conspiracy of silence that the Japanese media have held over dolphin and whale stories. We hope these kinds of actions and The Cove movie will bring the truth to the Japanese people. See our press release:

But we are more than a little apprehensive about how the town will treat us.

What sustains us is the amazing support we are getting from people like you! Did you know that the Broome Shire Council got 5,000 e-mail messages in ONE DAY urging them to suspend their sister-city ties with Taiji until the dolphin killing stops? Our online petition to the Japanese Ambassador and President Barack Obama has already garnered 30,000 names and continues to rise.

We have had dozens of volunteers passing out our postcards (directing people to our Save Japan Dolphins website) at screenings of The Cove in 32 cities in the US over the past month. We have one activist who is donating her own fees this month from her yoga teaching classes to the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. Our friends at Ecojoia, the outfit in Colorado that is printing our t-shirts and hats, is donating much of their profits to Save Japan Dolphins, too. The outpouring of support is almost overwhelming, showing how much the people of the world care about the dolphins in Japan.

I’m convinced, with your continued support, that we can stop the killing of dolphins and whales in Japan. There is no reason why it should continue.

For this trip to Taiji over the next week, we will be there – usually, the fishermen refuse to go out and catch dolphins on days when we are in town, so that in itself, if it still holds, may be one small victory.

Later this month, I plan to return to Japan to screen the Japanese version of The Cove.

Please help us by donating:

Click Here to Donate

Your donations and efforts on our behalf are what will sustain our momentum. This is an historic moment for the dolphins and whales of Japan. I thank you and ask you to join us in spirit for this return to Taiji.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition consists of Earth Island Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, OceanCare, In Defense of Animals, Campaign Whale, and the Animal Welfare Institute.

"Arrival sign at the Kansai Airport, near Osaka, in Japan."
Photo Copyright Mark J. Palmer

"Arrival signs at the Kansai Airport, near Osaka, in Japan."
Photo Copyright Mark J. Palmer

"Ric O’Barry and his son, Lincoln O’Barry, arrive at Kansai Airport in Japan, near Osaka, on Ric’s first trip back to Japan since the premier of the film, The Cove."
Photo Copyright Mark J. Palmer

"Ric O’Barry relaxes after a long flight from Miami, Florida, to Osaka, Japan, on the first leg of his journey. "
Photo Copyright Mark J. Palmer

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