I learned about the Taiji, Japan dolphin slaughter about four years ago here in the U.S. One day at work, a prop stylist I was working with said something about a dolphin hunt in Japan. She said, “They are such nice people but they hunt for dolphins. I don’t understand.”
This was the very first time I learned about dolphin slaughter in my home country, Japan. Her comment stayed in my mind for a while. A part of me wanted to just deny the fact, but I knew I needed to do my own research. I knew whale consumption was popular, especially right after WWII, when it was extremely hard to get poultry and other meats so people ate less expensive whale meat instead. But other than that, I didn’t grow up learning anything about it and dolphin hunt. I’ve never eaten whale/dolphin meat (as it is not as common as a lot of Americans may think). I just simply didn’t know anything about it.
I heard about the 2009 documentary film about dolphin hunt -- “The Cove” -- and decided to give it a shot. As painful and upsetting the film was, I’m glad that I watched it. This is an extremely sensitive subject in my opinion. Dolphin is a cuisine specific to only some regions in Japan, which makes it very difficult for people to know/understand its relationship to the country. Some haven’t taken the opportunity to learn about this custom -- it’s easy to ignore. They don’t want to admit such “custom” still exists in Japan.
Ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s criticism was negatively received by Japan. Many Japanese people seem to take this as political agenda -- and cultural attack -- not an animal rights issue. The best way to make Japanese people become more receptive about dolphin slaughter might be to put a pop culture spotlight on the issue: Get a group of Japanese actors and TV personalities to talk about it on TV -- just like they do on Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” here in the U.S. Over the last few years, the hunt has gotten more media attention in Japan, but it just isn’t enough to make the entire nation rethink the annual tradition.