Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 3: A windy first morning in Taiji!

 ...What did we do today?? I think the jet lag has caught up to me. I'm feeling a bit delirious, not really having a clear sense of time. I thought I knew what I'd done today, then I looked through my pictures and realized I'm getting my days confused. Well, to the best of my ability, here's what I can remember from today:

When we met outside of our hotel at 5:30 this morning it was slightly windy, but it's hard to judge what the sea will be like while in town so we crossed our fingers that it was windy enough that the boats would stay in the harbor. Strong wind make for a rough trip, but more importantly, with so many white caps it is incredibly difficult to spot a pod of dolphins. Along our drive to Taiji we passed the fish market that is shown in The Cove movie and saw them lining up tuna on the ground, getting ready for the auction. We drove past the harbor and saw the fishermen gathered around a fire. Leah told me they do this every morning and were getting the weather report from the Coast Guard and deciding whether or not they'd go out to try and find dolphins. No one was preparing the banger boats at that point, so things were looking good. The sea was pretty rough, but we waited at the lookout for a while just to make sure. There was a police car who drove by ours and Sea Shepherd's car (they knew where we'd be watching from), but because they did not speak English they did not stop and talk. Happy to report that the boats did not go out today! That made it possible for us to relax and enjoy the beautiful rising sun.

On our way back to Katsuura we stopped at Dolphin Resort and checked on the dolphins in the sea pens. What a depressing sight that was, they looked so very bored. Many of them would come up for a breath of air and then they'd just log on the surface for a few moments. Others surfaced under small pieces of wood, balancing it on their backs. That must be a desperate form of entertainment in their incredibly tragic existence, living in those pens. The pens are right around the corner from the cove, which means that almost every day these dolphins hear the banging of the metal poles as the fishermen drive a pod of dolphins into the cove, just like what happened to them the day they were captured. Day in and day out they hear the frightened screams of dolphins. What torture that must be. I learned that every once in a while a dolphin will actually jump out of its pen, but the trainers do not seem concerned, and the dolphin sticks very close to the pens. Once it is feeding time the trainers are able to coax it back in because it's hungry. This of course makes you wonder why they don't just leave if they're successful in escaping their pens. Sure, that's what we'd do, right? It seems so simple and obvious. So why don't they? Well first let's acknowledge that humans and dolphins are very different. We do not think the same way a dolphin does; because we're separate species our brains operate in a totally different manner. That being said, I can say that if I were in that situation, and every day I heard the screams of dying dolphins coming from the direction of the escape route, I probably wouldn't go running that direction either. But again, we have no idea how the dolphins perceive the situation, and so we can only speculate as to why they do not leave. Perhaps if all of them were released together they would go.

Since the boats did not go out, we had the whole day to do whatever and Leah decided to show us Hotel Urashima across the harbor. This hotel has natural hot springs inside, and provides an excellent view point of Katsuura and Taiji. Because it is built into a mountain and is so high above sea level it is the emergency evacuation spot in the event of a tsunami. To get to Hotel Urashima we took the little white turtle ferry that you can see in The Cove movie. I had my camera out and when the ferry docked a man stepped off and said something in Japanese and held his hand out for my camera. We weren't sure if he was wanting to confiscate it or what, but then he told us to put our bags down and pose with the boat. He kept telling us to flash the stereotypical peace sign, then he'd rearrange us and take another. Once we docked on the other side of the harbor he disembarked the ferry with us, took my camera again, and started picking flowers from the hotel garden for Leah and I to put in our hair. He had us pose once again, and again and again. It was so bizarre we couldn't stop laughing. It's great to encounter such friendliness!

Once inside the hotel we visited a gift shop and I saw my first whale meat. They actually had a whole display of it sitting in a little replica of an old whaling ship. Obviously I couldn't read what any of it said, but given the different types of packaging it looked like there was quite of variety of how it was prepared. Investigations have shown that what is labeled as minke whale meat is often meat from a different whale species or even a dolphin. I wonder what kind of coverup I was looking at...

After checking out the vantage point and visiting a temple at the hotel we headed back to the cove. I drove this time, and surprisingly did totally fine. The only problem I had (and kept having) was that the blinker is on the wrong side of the steering wheel, so I kept turning on the windshield wipers. From what they tell me, you never really get used to that part so I guess I did well! I managed to keep it in the right lane, which is of course the left lane, the whole time! When we arrived at the cove there was another car in the parking lot, and it wasn't long after we got there that the police arrived to see what we were up to. I met 3 more officers and again they were all extremely nice. They talked, joked, and laughed with Leah and I for about 10 minutes before leaving. The solitary car remained in the lot.

Time to prepare for tomorrow, hoping day 4 is as lucky as day 3 was!


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  2. awesome I put-off buying this for months,