donderdag 31 januari 2013

What,s behind the dolphins "smile"

In Taiji you can be hit by lightning, even with a clear blue sky.

We had a couple of beautiful days without pain or suffering. For 3 days in a row the Cove stayed blue ! Every morning at 6.30, the boats went out, but returned empty handed to port, always as late as possible, because there was always a chance of finding dolphins or whales... And every morning for us, was one of anxious waiting, scanning the ocean with binoculars to see if their were no bangerboats in sight, coming together in that sinister shape of a drive-formation. And for 3 days there was that sheer joy of seeing the boats come back without a pod, knowing that the Cove would stay blue for yet another day.
Temporary sea-prison...
...just outside Taiji harbour

This morning was no different. The boats went out and we went to our look out point, from were we had a clear view over the ocean. It was not before 9.30 (the time they stop searching) that we got our first glimps of the bangerboats, gathering into a formation, north of us. They had a pod of dolphins !

I changed to another location, the lighthouse at the harbour entrance. That´s when i saw something, for me, completely new. The pod of dolphins was not driven into the infamous Cove, but was netted in, just outside Taiji harbour. Later i understood why.... The pod they had captured were White-sided dolphins, most wanted in dolphin shows and dolphinaria and therefore highly valuable ! So of these animals, non were butchered, but they had to be taken alive, all of them. 
Tossed against the wooden board....
Butcherhouse at Taiji harbour

Soon the skiffs with divers and fishermen moved in, to get controle over the frightened and confused animals, who were just hours before, wild and free in the open ocean.

It didn't take long for the first skiff with one dolphin and several fishermen, to pass right under my nose to the harbour pens, were they hold all the "prisoners". There the men just tossed the sensitive animal over the wooden walkingboards into one of the holding-pens. A total of 11 skiffs went back and forth, some of them even had 3 dolphins aboard. The animals are quitte heavy and during one "toss", they threw the unfortunate dolphin not far enough, so it fell full weight on the wooden board and then it tumbled into the pen....

2 dead, 1 alive to the butcher
Taken prisoner

Several dolphins died during this proces of stress and were taken directly to the butcherhouse, which is located only meters away from the harbour pens.

Taiji, i have to hand it to you, today you caught me totally off guard ! Maybe because i thought that i had seen all your horrors in the 3.5 weeks that i was here, or maybe because this happened right under my nose so i could see the torturing in all it's gruesome details. But something inside me snapped, when your "workmen" came in with the last skiff, carrying the dead body's of two dolphins hidden under tarps and one dolphin alive, but injured. Dead ánd alive, they were hauled by the tail into the butcherhouse and slaughtered.

Before i came to Taiji, i tried to prepare myself for what was to come by reading all about the atrocity's that are happening here almost daily, read all the news, viewed all the clips on youtube and even monitored about every square foot of Taiji with Google Earth. So i thought i knew....
Little did i know. You can never be ready for the harsh reality of Taiji.
Harbour lighthouse

Some time ago, i saw a quote on Facebook:

"You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know"

I guess what i'm trying to say is, if you know where these dolphins came from and you know, how much pain and suffering these intelligent creatures had to go through (and always will in captivity) to entertain us, how could someone ever again buy a ticket to a dolphin show ? I really wouldn't know.

Thank you for all your support and thanks for reading my blog.

With love,


zaterdag 26 januari 2013


We had a horrifying week. Over and over again the hunters came back with a pod of dolphins that was killed in the cove as other dolphins were taken captive. For me it was sometimes hard not to lose faith....  Last week the succesraid of the hunters was close to a 100 %. The only time they didn't hunt and caught dolphins, was because it was raining.
And that, while some time ago, the killerboats came back with a pod, maybe only just twice a week !!

Drying squid
This has everything to do with a cold undercurrent in the ocean near Japan, which makes the squid come to the surface, followed by the dolphins in their wake, feeding on them. The killers know that and have an easy time finding the pods. Over and over again, they were in hunting formation within an hour, or 2.
Prove of the overload is in the small fish shops. There is squid everywhere.

So today the boats stay in. I have a mixed feeling about this day off. Of course, we are all very happy that the cove stayes blue, that there will be no dolphins taken captive or be slaughtered today. But the dolphins (and us) only got this present, this day to breathe, because the "fishermen" had so many kills this week, that they had the privilege to take the day off.

So i guess now i have time to wright some more about Japan.
Because i am in a beautiful country and the nature i see around me is often breathtaking !
The part of Japan were we stay, is just as it looks on the map, a big rock, sticking out of the ocean. Everywhere their are mountains, covered with trees. In the valley's  there are small towns, connected by two-lane roads and tunnels. In no country in the world, i've seen so many tunnels, they are litterally everywhere, carved through the mountains. It must have been a lot of work making them, the mountains are solid bedrock.
The country is surrounded by a beautiful, crystal-clear ocean, absolutely awesome !
On the moments that we were free, we had the time to enjoy some of Japans beauty. We visited a few Buddhist temples, usually build high on a mountain and therefore only reachable by stairs, lots and lots of 'm ! :) They are all places of silence and serenity, very peaceful.

Temple entrance
Stairsway to. heaven ?

I've also been to a Japanese cemetary, not small like most of them in my country, but a huge one ! It was a whole valley covered with marbel urns containing the ashes of the deceased. The Japanese people cremate their loved ones. Also here in this huge valley, peace and serenity. Amazing.

So many urns

Also amazing, (but differently) are the warehouses and supermarkets in Japan. My friends back home know that they are not my strongest point (to say the least...) Not nearly as big as here in Japan, i can easily get lost between the shelves, leaving me staring for minutes to just óne product, not knowing what to buy because of the overwhelming supply.
Can you imagine me in a Japanese superstore, where big is BIG, hundreds and hundreds of meters of shelves, millions of products, everything written in Japanese and nobody to ask for help because of the English ? I hope you can.
So i came back out with enough grocery's (ánd a headache) to help me through my last days here. So i won't have to go back there. Éver ! ;)

BIG !!
Everywhere !!

On lítterally évery corner in Japan there is a vending machine, where you can buy your pops, soda, beer and even hot coffee in a tin can. I posted a photo of one. And where my country is flooded with trash cans on every 50 meters, here there are nóne ! Every time i have to bring back my trash to the hotel, where i can get rid of it.

Hot, black, with sugar
Something else that has amazed me are the bathrooms here. In my country, it's almost unthinkable to find a clean public toilet. But take it from me, the Japanese must lóve their bathrooms !! The bathrooms are so clean and shiny, you could almost eat from the floor, with heated toilet-seats, all kind of jet streams for...well, you know what, and of course some music in the background to make your stay even more comfortable. Clean towels, washing tables and big shiny mirrors. And even the ones "in the middle of nowhere" ! Amazing.
"Average" Japanese bathroom ! :)

Strange to me is that so many people in Japan are wearing those little white masks. First i thought that it was to prevend catching some virus from someone else, but later i learned that it was because someone who wears one, has a cold and doesn't want to infect others. Right the other way around ! But then, half of Japan must be sick. Policemen, busdrivers, schoolkids, people in stores, hotels, at the airports. Só many are wearing these funny things.... Strange.

But what has struck me the most of the Japanese people, is their kindness !
They are always ready to help you, even though most of them speak very poor English. They greet you on the street, always with a nod and many times with a smile.
When they serve you in a restaurant or help you in a gas station or a store, often they do not walk...they rún ! It's their way of showing their respect for you. 

It's crazy to say that all Japanese people are bad, just because of what is happening here in Taiji. I am absolutely sure that there are many people who don't agree with the atrocities here and i actually have spoken to people in Taiji who said that they dislike the cruelty that is done to the dolphins ! It is only a handful of people who get rich by the dolphin trade.... And they can keep making their big money, because dolphin shows around the world are paying those huge prices for live dolphins. It is very doubtful the dolphin hunts would stay profitable, once this trade was ended.

I hope the people of Taiji realize that if they would change from a dolphin hunting- into a dolphin watching town, everybody here could benefit from these wonderful animals. Imagine the thousands and thousands of tourists coming here all year round, enjoying the beauty Taiji can offer ! And leave the dolphins and whales where they belong, in the ocean.

No boats leaving harbour today !

The best thing for us to do, is never visit a dolphin show and tell everybody around us why they shouldn't buy a ticket. Most people still have no idea what  blood-red story is behind that "happy" dolphin smile...!

Thank you for your support and for reading my blog.

With love, 



dinsdag 22 januari 2013

Dolphin prison Taiji

This morning, mother nature woke us up with the most beautiful song she could ever sing: The sound of rain, pooring down on Taiji. In most cases that means only one thing, that there will be no dolphin hunting ! But there has been exceptions, so to be absolutely sure, we drove to Taiji harbour to watch with our own eyes that all killerboats stayed in !

Dolphin Resort Taiji

What a blessing for the dolphins after such a bloody week. They could swim by, peacefull and unharmed and hopefully far away from the cost of Japan. Because the weather here in these parts of the world, can change in an instant, the next day can be a whole different situation again. We can only take it one day at the time. But today was a good day ! It started with rain-showers, enough to keep them in, but later in the morning the sun broke through, the clouds disappeared and we had a nice temperature high enough to walk outside in our T-shirts !
While only the day before, we were shivering in the cove in our winterclothes. Unbelievable.
So we had the day off, went for a coffee and breakfast in town and chatted 
together in the sun.

But even on the days that the cove stayes blue, the tragedy never stops here in Taiji. We went to Dolphin Resort, were the captive dolphins are held and trained.
It is a place of absolute sadness. It is the place were the dolphins and whales ripped from the ocean and their family have to serve their live sentence in prison. Because these mighty animals will never be free again. Their world, once the open ocean, is now reduced to a pen about the size of a swimming pool. And they are turned into circus clowns, learning silly tricks they have to perform later to entertain us, humans, in a dolphin show somewhere in the world. 
Unbelievable that people still think that this is funny and that a dolphin "smiles", because it is happy. The smile of a dolphin is natures greatest deception !

Striped dolphins

Bijschrift toevoegen
The animals are kept hungry, so it is quitte easy to let these intelligent creatures do what the trainers want in exchange for a dead fish. They were literally begging for food everytime one of the trainers was nearby with a bucket full of fish.
The animals are so bored that when there is no food around, they are chasing each other or make the same movement over and over again. They get ulcers for which they have to be treated with medication.

In the pens are different species held together. Striped dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Risso's and false killer whales, many are here for weeks or months !
There were 2 pilot whales held in one pen together with some bottlenose dolphins. One of them was here already for a long time, and it was in a very bad shape. It laid in the same corner of the pen, not moving at all and sometimes rolled on it's side. During my stay in Taiji, i was here for the second time in the last two weeks and the pilot whale was still in the same corner, it hardly had moved. It's mate swam around it, as if it tried to help and give comfort. It never left it's side. But i think this pilot whale gave up on life....

Pilot whale gave up on life
Doing silly things for dead fish...

The dolphin-hunts and killings all start here. The big cash is made in the trade of the so called "show dolphins", who are sold for tons of money ($150.000 or more) to dolphinaria all over the world. The other animals which are slaughtered, are "by-catch" ! They are often sold as whale meat for only 6 or 700 dollar each.
Begging for food

We can stop the animal cruelty and bloodshed here in Taiji, simply by not buying a ticket for a dolphin show or a "swimming with dolphins" program.
If we take away the demand, we can surely eliminate the supply !!
And without this multi-million dollar industry, it wouldn't be profitable anymore for those killers to go out every day, to hunt for dolphins !
Please keep sharing the news. Far to many people still don't realize what's behind that dolphins smile...

Thanks for all your support and thank you for reading my blog.

With love, Willem