Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 20: To Be Continued...

 I'm sitting in my bed, writing this on my last night in Japan. It was a great day all things considered; gorgeous weather, no dolphins driven into the cove, and time spend with good friends, but still I've been a mess this whole day.

When I came to this country three weeks ago I was terrified. Terrified I wouldn't get past Immigrations, terrified I'd get lost and wouldn't find my city or hotel, and terrified of the sights I knew lay ahead of me. When I came to this country three weeks ago I was a different person, and it seems like just yesterday and forever ago, all at the same time. I spent my first night crying on the ground in the middle of the airport. Tomorrow I will return to the airport, and can foresee a similar scene. It won't be because I'm alone and afraid though, but because I honestly don't want to leave Japan, Taiji, or the dolphins.

I've met some amazing people here, and have had the extreme pleasure of working alongside truly dedicated and passionate people all working towards the same goal: ending dolphin slaughter everywhere, saving the oceans, and ultimately saving ourselves. I've gotten to know a few amazing Japanese citizens, as well. This was my first time leaving my country (with the exception of Canada, which really doesn't count), so I don't have anything to compare Japan to, all I can say is that I really love it here. Obviously I've been discriminated against on certain occasions, but for the most part the people here are extremely kind and welcoming. If only the people here could treat our ocean with the same level of respect.

I had some goodbyes to say today, and a few more saved for tomorrow. All day I've had this horrible empty feeling in my body, and I know it will only get worse once my plane lifts off. I feel like I'm abandoning what I believe in, abandoning my friends still here, and most importantly abandoning the dolphins in cages and the ones yet to be caught and murdered. It may not do them any good for me to be here, watching and documenting their suffering, but at least I feel like I'm doing as much as I can. Now it just feels like I'm moving on and leaving all of this in my past, as if the 'real world' awaits me. Most people will I'm sure try and reassure me, and tell me that this isn't the case, I can still help from home, I can always return in the future, etc., but to anyone who's ever been here, I know you know what I'm saying. What an awful and consuming feeling this is.

All I can say right now is that this isn't over. I will return to Taiji, hopefully sooner rather than later, and I will continue to fight for the rights of cetaceans until the day I die, or the day the last remaining dolphins die, whichever comes first. They have every right on Earth to live in peace. They have that right just as much as we do, if not more. They are not the problem, we are. They do not start global wars or massively pollute the environment or wipe out major fish stocks one by one until all the populations become critically endangered. They do not use other species to experiment on, kill in excess, or kill for fun. Unlike humans, dolphins do not treat the overall health of their habitat with indifference. Instead they've learned and practice the concept of sustainability. They are incredibly intelligent animals with a complex social structure. They too have culture, and they pass their culture and traditions to younger generations, who will in turn teach their children. They don't come onto land and into our homes and murder us in cold blood, one by one, or take captives for the sheer purpose of amusement. We do all of these things to them though, and we're the ones single-handedly destroying the planet, yet somehow the general consensus among humans is that we're the superior beings. There are certain species we tend to fear, like sharks and bears and lions, because we've wandered into their territory and occasionally became dinner, but I wonder what every other species in the world thinks of us? We must be the most terrifying creatures of all. There is not a species out there that we don't harm or exploit in some way or another.

We can do so much harm to our planet and our fellow Earthlings, but we can also do amazingly great things. We have the power to start saving lives rather than ending them on mass scale. We have the science to nurse our ocean back to health and once again have plentiful, thriving seas. Save our seas, save our planet, save ourselves.

But we can't do this unless we cooperate. Together we stand, divided we fall. We can play it us vs. them, but that game can and will go on for a long, long time, probably until it's all too late anyways. There's too much pride at work to simply force a country (or a small but powerful percentage of said country) to end a practice it does not want to end. At this point I wonder what drives these fishermen more; their desire to kill eat dolphins, or our desire for them to stop?

I feel like all I'm doing is preaching to the choir, which sure, boosts my spirits, but it will never accomplish anything. Hopefully during my three weeks here, someone somewhere in the world, preferably Japan, has read something on here that has ignited a spark in them to help us end the cruel and heartless practice of dolphin slaughter and captivity worldwide. The change needs to come from within this country, not from us trying to force it on them. I wish I could stay here and help open lines of communication with the people who can end this once and for all, but like I say, I will be back again. And hopefully I will see Japan willingly and enthusiastically leave this tradition in the past, where it belongs.

Thank you to everyone who's been so supportive of my journey, your words of encouragement have helped to keep me going. Thanks to Leah and Rosie for teaching me so much, and working so tirelessly for the dolphins. You ladies are amazing and an inspiration and I will miss you very much. Thanks to Martyn for always making me laugh. You've really helped to get me through some very difficult times, probably more than you'll ever know. In your absence we've had plenty of Martyn quotes, and while it's not the same, they suffice. :)

A very special thanks goes out to Tetsuya and all of the police here who work insanely long days and forfeit time with their families in order to keep us safe. I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you, and will miss not having you around. I very much hope we will meet again in the future.

This will be my final blog, for now. Tomorrow I will reluctantly step on a plane, leaving a part of my heart behind with the many dolphins who've tragically lost their lives here, either in death or captivity. To the broken pod of Risso's and rough toothed dolphins, you will remain with me forever. I love you, and hope you have found your peace, and made your way far, far away from this dangerous coast and people here who hurt and misunderstand you. For you, I will never give up.

For the oceans...


  1. Absolutely beautiful Heather!! Thank you for your words, your strength, and your presents being there.

  2. Safe, safe trip Heather and thank you for all you have done and shared. I will miss your insightful blog posts and will check in on a regular basis :) Please do not ever hesitate to contact me, if I can be of help at all.

  3. You've done a great job on this blog, not only with keeping us up-to-date on all of the occurrences in Taiji, but also with your personal feelings and reactions to witnessing these things first-hand. As much it hurts you to leave, and as much as you feel like you can do more good there, don't forget that you can also effect change here, by sharing your experiences and educating others on the horrific details of animal captivity.

    You've proven that you're very capable of working toward and achieving your goals, so I have no doubt that you will return to Taiji someday if that's what you work toward, and hopefully you'll be able to see some progress between now and then. In the meantime, you'll still be fighting the fight, just on another front.

    Have a safe trip back!

  4. Thank you for making the trip and telling the story. I know that feeling you describe. It's hard to label but one that has stayed with me and will bring me back someday. I hope your reentry back to stateside life is smooth.

  5. I respect you. You are a person with huge dignity.