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WDC in Japan – Part 1: Finding allies in Tokyo

At the end of May, I embarked on an incredible journey to Japan on behalf of Whale and Dolphin Conservation. My mission was clear: Find allies and get an up-to-date impression of Japanese whaling and the dolphin hunt in Taiji. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share with you how I got on.

My first stop was the bustling city of Tokyo, where I met with the dedicated organisations and individuals who share your commitment to ending the hunting of whales and dolphins.

A hub of compassion

Tokyo proved to have an abundance of organisations and activists focusing on animal and nature conservation, so my schedule was full. I had so many exciting conversations and made wonderful new acquaintances. One organisation I had the pleasure of getting to know was Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation (PEACE). They address all kinds of animal welfare issues, including the dolphin hunt in Taiji and the captivity of whales and dolphins. During our meeting, the two women from PEACE shared stories about a demonstration that they helped to organise and kindly invited me to join. But more on that later.

Tajij whalers rounding up dolphins before the slaughter
In Taiji, dolphins and small whales are slaughtered for meat or hand-picked to live out their lives in a dolphinarium. © Kunito
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

Can you help us end the slaughter?

Continuing my journey, I was delighted to reunite with Junko Sakuma whom I had previously met at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in October 2022. Junko's efforts have made many facts and figures about Japanese whaling accessible and understandable for others.

But my journey didn’t end there. I had the pleasure of meeting Mineto and Midori from Animal Liberator (LIB), who are equally committed to increasing transparency around the trade, captivity and hunting of whales and dolphins in Japan. I connected with Kirie Suzuki from Japan Wildlife Conservation Society (JWCS) and  the members of the Life Investigation Agency (LIA) all of whom share our vision of creating a world where whales and dolphins are safe and free.

On the coast in Japan
I spent the evening chatting to Mineto and Midori as the sun set at the coast of beautiful Miura.

Inspiring individuals

It isn’t just organisations that are actively working against the suffering of whales and dolphins on their doorstep; I also connected with passionate individuals like Satoshi and Sayaka. We had profound conversations about the social and political hurdles Japanese people face in their fight against dolphin hunting, and I could clearly feel the urgency that so many Japanese activists feel. The government and the public are seemingly unreachable and the hunting of whales and dolphins is extremely controversial. I left this meeting with intense, mixed feelings: motivated and determined to help, and yet paralysed and overwhelmed by all the challenges we need to overcome.

Whale friends in Japan
I have confidence that we will win the fight if we work together.

Hope reignited

Sunday brought us together for a powerful demonstration against the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. With about a hundred like-minded people, I loudly demanded an end to the hunt and a boycott of dolphinariums. Standing as the voice for the voiceless, we advocated for the traumatised dolphins who are captured to endure a sad existence in a tank. I was totally amazed to see how many Japanese people came from all over the country to participate. It was even more thrilling to learn that this demonstration wasn't confined to a specific location in Tokyo but was a long march right through the city centre – truly amazing! Though we mostly received sceptical looks, we knew we were heard and we hope that we reached people with our message.

Anti-whaling supporters in Japan
Local whale supporters on march in Japan

It was incredible to see so many people rallying together to protect whales and dolphins.

My time in Tokyo meeting dedicated individuals and organisations filled me with hope and inspiration. The passion and commitment I witnessed showed me that if we work together we can end the hunts and create a world where whales and dolphins are safe and free. The recent suspension of whaling in Iceland serves as proof that collective action and solidarity with the people in the countries where hunting happens can lead to meaningful change. We will continue to stand united.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will tell you about my experience of a magical exhibition

Please help us today with a donation

If you are able to help, every gift, whether large or small, will help us stop whaling for good.

About Katrin Matthes

Katrin koordiniert für uns die internationale Arbeit zu Japan. Ihr Hauptaugenmerk liegt auf der Beendigung des kommerziellen Walfangs und der Delfinjagden in Taiji. Katrin kümmert sich außerdem um die Bildungs- und Kinderinhalte auf unserer deutschen Website.