Today I successfully navigated the train transfers and made it to KiiKatsuura! Special thanks goes to one very nice conductor who came and got me right before my train arrived, brought me over to where I would get on, and wrote the next train down on a piece of paper. The final train ride, which was just over 2 and a half hours long, winded along the coastline and had spectacular views of the Pacific. Though I didn't actually pay for it, I sat in the reserved seating section of the train, but only because that was the car I boarded and it was too much work dragging my luggage down the aisle. Several times during the trip train employees walked through the car, and every time they would bow once they entered, and then turn and bow again as they were exiting. What a different world I am in.
This ride was a bit more interesting than the others - they said a great deal over the intercom, but never in English. And I'm almost positive they said KiiKatsuura at every stop, which meant I had to quickly run through the train car at ever stop trying to find the station sign that said in English where we were.
Found the right stop, stared at the 56 stairs I had to drag my 4 bags up and down, sweat a river and tore open the suitcase-handle blisters on my palms, got motioned from across the street into what I thought was my hotel, was actually a restaurant, found my hotel, and found Sea Shepherd, Ady Gil, and Save Japan Dolphins all on their computers in the lobby. Yeay for finding friends!
After renting my car the SJD crew showed me around Taiji, pointing out the areas of interest as we drove. Ric was absolutely right about what he said in the movie - if you didn't know better, you'd think this was a town that loved dolphins and whales. They're everywhere! Statues, wall murals, graphics on vehicles, you name it. The strangest part though is that it does not feel strange to be here in person. It feels oddly normal - like, of course I'm here, why wouldn't I be?
When we pulled into the parking lot at the cove, there was one car already parked, with people inside. Apparently there is always a car there, and they do not get out, they just sit and take notes. There were a few Coast Guard officers there as well, and we walked by so that I could meet them. They mentioned that we had a new car, which is pretty impressive observation skills seeing how we all have the same car, just different license plates. Within a few minutes, more Coast Guard showed up, as well as the Police. They walked down the steps so that Leah could introduce us and they could get my passport info. They were surprisingly very friendly. I've heard they are, but I still expected a bit of indifference if not animosity from them. Instead, they chatted with us and I overheard them tell Leah how nice she always is. They'd also been telling her they were excited to meet 'her new colleague', and were all smiles as they spoke with us. It's funny that they were looking forward to my arrival at the same time I was being interrogated by Immigration for the very same reason... Especially since they are the ones who actually deal with it all. You can tell that they aren't against us - or at least our particular organization. It's awesome that SJD has maintained such a good relationship with them; they're here to protect us as much as they are to make sure we don't break any laws. It was pretty interesting seeing the quick response and gathering though. By the time we left, around 6pm when no dolphins were in the cove, there were about 10 of them. Leah mentioned that they'd probably do a drive by of our hotel tonight to see that all of our cars are parked.
The actual cove is a beautiful place. Such amazing scenery, it's a real shame it can't just be used as a park like it's supposed to be. In hindsight, I'm actually kind of glad yesterday worked out how it did. Had I gotten on the train last night like I'd planned, I'd have woken up this morning and witnessed the slaughter of about 10 Risso's dolphins. My first introduction to The Cove would have been death and bloody water. Because I arrived today, I was able to see it for its natural beauty and nothing more. I hear once you see a slaughter, you'll never see that place the same again.
In 8 hours we'll head to The Cove to see if the boats go out, and if they do, well, you know the rest. The wind was really blowing tonight, so here's hoping it continues through the night and the boats stay in the harbor!