Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Cove: Free dive into cultural antagonism...

Oscar-winning American documentary "The Cove" about a controversial dolphin hunt in a western Japanese town started screening in Japan on Saturday, despite protests that caused earlier screenings to be canceled. The film, is about the story of traditional dolphin catch in a little fishing village of Taiji, in the Wakayama Prefecture.

The documentary film, reinforced by extraordinary technological tools and under sea cameras, was originally scheduled to be screened at 26 theaters across Japan, from June 26. But was delayed due to criticisms of some Japanese nationalists and citizens groups who considered The Cove as being anti-Japanese and a propaganda made by the US producers.

According to media, theaters that planned to show the film in Tokyo and Osaka decided to cancel their screenings. Same decision was adopted in Okinawa on American military bases. Locals say it would add to an already tense antagonistic climate on the Japanese island.

In Taiji, people strongly objected to the documentary, which was mostly shot in the town with hidden cameras. Their claim is that the film is based on wrong information and infringes on individual rights because the people were filmed without their permission.

The filmmaker answer that what is at stake here is not a destabilization of locals' customs and gastronomic culture but the fact that the dolphins and those who eat them risk to increase the level of mercury in their organism.

The Japanese distributor, Unplugged Inc, said that four of the six theaters showing the film on Saturday were targets of street protests or intimidated. Of the four, two in Tokyo and Yokohama successfully applied for a court injunction against civic groups staging protests around the theaters.

"Several theater owners came forward and committed to show The Cove movie despite threats from extreme nationalists" writes on his Blog Ric O’Barry, Campaign Director of Save Japan Dolphin.

"... we also won a key injunction in a Yokohama court against the group protesting the film. Unfortunately, the extremists are again ramping up, employing their worst tactics to date..."

"We have repeatedly tried to engage our critics, inviting them to participate in open forums, but they refused. Rather than discuss the issues they employ highly aggressive bullying tactics to shut down the film. I personally believe they are being paid to protest and don’t really have a point of view. I don’t even think they care about Taiji. Their only goal is to keep people from knowing the truth, no matter what it takes..."

What about the media and Rick O'Barry?

"After the Asahi Newspaper (one of Japan’s largest) printed an opinion piece saying that they believed The Cove should be seen and discussed, the protestors came to their offices!"

Only a handful of people in Taiji, a quiet town of 3,500, hunt dolphins, which are sold to aquariums or eaten. Although O'Barry has visited Taiji many times, the residents and fishermen have reaffirmed that they resent the movie as outside interference in their lifestyle.

O'Barry said scientific data show that dolphin meat has high levels of mercury, which could be toxic if consumed in large amounts, and urged people to stop eating it for health reasons. The activist would offer monetary help to anyone in Taiji and the surrounding region with symptoms of mercury-poisoning and promised to make sure they get tested. Mercury poisoning, which is extremely risky for fetuses, can cause tremors, numbness, mood swings and impaired movement in adults, and can be fatal.

The Japanese think O'Barry is attacking their tradition. He answers that all he wants is a dialogue, including helping Taiji fishermen find alternative ways of making a living. He apologized if the secret filming tactics of "The Cove" have offended some people. But he added "I make no apologies for my cause, many of my friends love the country of Japan, and they all ask the same question: Why do you need to slaughter dolphins?"

✍✍✍ One sure thing I do understand is that O'Barry has a "link" with dolphins since he trained the dolphins in the movie "Flipper"

"Ric O'Barry who later turned marine activist, stated that after production ended he watched the dolphin Kathy's suicide as he stated that he perceived she took her own life: "She was really depressed... You have to understand dolphins and whales are not air breathers like we are. Every breath they take is a conscious effort. They can end their life whenever. She swam into my arms and looked me right in the eye, took a breath and didn't take another one. I let her go and she sank straight down on her belly to the bottom of the tank." It is said on the that "Richard O'Barry has worked both sides of the dolphin street, the first 10 years with the dolphin captivity industry, the past 30 against them.""

This might explain why...

Sources: Reporters' notes

Friday, July 02, 2010

France surfing on Japan Pop Culture Wave

"I come to Japan Expo Paris since its beginning because I'm a fan of manga since childhood. It is the only time of year when you find yourself among people who have the same passion".
French Fan of Manga and cosplay.

The largest annual Japan Expo showcasing the country’s pop arts and subculture opened in a Paris suburb on Thursday, with up to 180,000 people expected to attend during its four-day run.

Morning Musume, a Japanese pop idol group, will give its first live performance at the event, which will also draw Tsukasa Hojo, writer and illustrator of City Hunter, a hardboiled manga cartoon series, and Hideo Kojima, creator of the popular Metal Gear Solid video game series, among other participants.

A performance in Tokyo featuring songs from well-known anime series will also be broadcast live at the event. The first Japan Expo was held by Japanese pop culture enthusiasts in France in 2000, with about 3,000 people attending. Since then, the event has grown in size, and now involves the governments of both Japan and France and firms in related industries.

Japanese Popular Culture is now a program for universities studies undergraduates in Tokyo, where they focus their academics on studies of Japanese popular culture.

Japanese officials sponsor the Paris fiesta

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) are collaborating together to participate in the Japan Expo Paris 2010, which will be held in Paris, France from July 1 to 4. The Japan Expo is one of the world’s largest international events celebrating Japanese pop culture, where over 160,000 young people interested in Japanese pop trends are expected to gather from all over the world. Various forms of modern Japanese culture including manga (comics), anime (animation), video games, music and fashion will be introduced there. There will also be some booths introducing Japanese sports such as a martial arts booth and a batting cage. To take the greatest advantage of this occasion where many young people who are interested in Japan are expected to gather, MOFA, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, METI and JTA will mutually collaborate to harness and lever Japan’s soft power through exhibitions." End of quotes of the very serious METI ministry.

Sources: agencies, Jp Times,,, Reporter's notes

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Kan Naoto U-Turn: Japan to restart naval refueling mission in Indian ocean!

JMSDF refueling in Indian ocean

The government is considering re-deploying Maritime Self-Defense Force tankers to refuel foreign vessels engaged in anti-piracy operations in the Indian ocean and assist the operations off the horn of Africa and in Afghanistan. It has been confirmed, according to sources close to political and defense affairs, during the visit of a high official of Japan Defense ministry to the US.

Hatoyama had ended the unpopular refueling mission in the Indian Ocean designed to be part of Japan's contribution to the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan. In January he did fulfill his election campaign pledge to end the eight-year refueling mission, but outraged his supporters in Japan by offering $5 billion towards Afghan reconstruction to appease Washington, much to the consternation of his DPJ supporters.

The JSDF will be involved in dispatching military equipment and personal in the region according to sources. This will add a serious blow to the DPJ political pledges which were to take distance from assisting US and international military operations in the Indian ocean and in Afghanistan. It also marks a 180 degree rotation from previous political pledges from the Democratic Party of Japan of Prime Minister Naoto KAN not to get involved into military operations overseas.

Sources: Reporter's notes

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

5-3! Paraguay beats Japan on penalty lottery

"It was not just defeat it was also passion and the eyes wet. Yuichi Komano made a slow, sad walk through the mixed zone, looking as if he'd let a whole nation down while fans watched a man who gave and his team everything for two hours, then sees all that effort melt away in the instant that a round piece of plastic hurtles into a metal pipe."

Comments of the press in Japan are numerous to congratulate their team who made it to the 16: "Despite defeat in World Cup, Japan's soccer style taking shape" the Mainichi shimbun writes.

VDO: The PKs':

The 2010 World Cup round 16 soccer match between Paraguay and Japan was kicked off on yesterday, on June 29, 2010 at Loftus Versefeld Stadium, Pretoria.

In this match, Paraguay defeated Japan by 5-3. With this win, Paraguay secured their berth in quarter finals. Supporters in Tokyo were united in hoping that the only Asian side remaining in the tournament would reach the quarter-finals to become Japan's most successful World Cup side ever.

"Surprised the world; endured a grueling 120 minutes," the Asahi Shimbun headlined, praising a fighting Blue Samurai team who eventually lost 5-3 on penalties after 30 minutes of scoreless extra-time against Paraguay.

Substitute Oscar Cardozo scored the decisive spot-kick at the Loftus Versfeld stadium after Japan's Yuichi Komano had smashed his penalty against the crossbar. Yomiuri Shimbun declared that "bravery will be remembered", daring readers to dream "for four years' time" when the 2014 World Cup is staged in Brazil.

Television networks aired telephone interviews with Japanese players' proud mothers, emotional grandparents and former high-school coaches who watched the game in South Africa or at home in Japan. This time around, the Blue Samurai's strong showing surprised many at home and defied the low expectations of fans more familiar with Japan's previously timid performances. "Japan has finally begun its battle on the world stage," the Yomiuri said. "This experience surely will become the flesh and blood of Japanese football. It was a precious 120 minutes," according to the Asahi Shimbun. The performance prompted a fickle public to heap praise on head coach Takeshi Okada, who has gone from much-maligned zero to hero over the course of four football matches. Blogging sites such as Twitter turn red hot all night in Japan with tons of comments about the game.

Japanese TV stations were also upbeat about the Samurais, who many in the country had forecast to drop out of the first round before their unexpected victory against Cameroon in their opening match,then against Denmark in extraordinary game and magnificent 3 goals, including the 27 meters shoot of Endo scoring the second goal as a king of the field.

Sources: Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi, agencies, Reporter's notes.