From Kushimoto we continued around the coast to the infamous town of Taiji. Despite its small population of about 3000 people, almost half of which are of retirement age, the sleepy village was briefly thrust into the spotlight after appearing in the movie The Cove. I tend to agree with the Wall Street Journal that it was a “quasidocumentary framed as a high-tech thriller”. Really it’s a bunch of people running around pretending to be spies, harassing old people, then taking videos of their reactions.
I understand that it would have been a fun movie to make and it’s the kind of movie you can feel good for watching, but I don’t see it as much more than that. It’s easy to cause an outrage by taking a camera into a slaughterhouse because we are usually so removed from creating food. At least the dolphins are wild and only a few are caught a year. Pigs and chickens raised in battery cages are what really makes me mad. I guess everyone has their own ideas about what’s okay to eat and what isn’t, as well as what are the best ways to go about it. Personally, I have a far bigger problem with ships taking whales from the south pacific than a handful of old fisherman living out the last of a dying tradition. Almost no one even eats dolphin, so I don’t see how they’ll be able to continue for much longer anyway. Maybe I’m getting biased from being here, but I just think there are some other sides to the story that movie didn’t address.
The town is obsessed with whales and dolphins though, as they have been a major part of the local economy for hundreds of years. There are dances and festivals celebrating their importance, but the town has been declining for years. It was barely habited before everything happened, but now as we drive through it feels completely deserted. We have driven past several bodies on the side of the street, but didn’t have the heart to give them a proper burial. We would’ve spent the whole day digging holes if we had, and were in a rush to continue on to the power station. We had a little look in the whale museum, which is the biggest building in the town. There wasn’t anything of use in there, but we did find a few packets of dried whale meat in the souvenir shop. Most New Zealanders would reel at the idea of eating whale, but these days beggars can’t be choosers.
In broader news, we’ve found that Google, Twitter and Facebook are down at the moment, so if I don’t reply to messages, that’s why. Luckily, WordPress is still going strong, but it is unnerving that our sources of information are starting to dwindle with no international news access and limited availability of social media. We’re continuing to keep an eye on the Japanese news, as it’s the closest thing to information we can get at the moment. However, the rhetoric is always quite similar. The most recent one is about how water is being returned to the cities, and that trucks are being brought into the rural areas to supply rations and water. If anything, by checking what the government and news organisiations are saying, we can then think about what they are not saying. I can’t say we have seen any evidence of the cleanup and revitalization of Japan in Taiji or anywhere else around the bottom of Wakayama.