From The Editor
I’ve been looking forward to this particular issue since taking a trip out to Miyakejima with some new friends last summer. I quickly found myself captivated by the catastrophic beauty of the island, as well as the strange magnetism of the temperamental volcano looming above, coughing noxious fumes your way, depending on which way the wind blows.
And then there were the dolphins. In just about any other situation, the group of people on that fishing boat, from all walks of life, would have been terrified to jump into the open ocean with nothing but a snorkel and a mask. A few hundred meters away waterfalls shot off steep cliffs jutting straight up from rocky shores, reminding me of Hawaii. Yet at the sight of the dolphins, we were instantly transformed into a group of excited little kids.
Every last one of us jumped in with only the slightest hint of hesitation on that first plunge. After that, fatigue (or seasickness in my case) was the only thing keeping us out of the water. The experience has haunted my dreams; perhaps because being suspended in deep blue water staring eye-to-eye with these magnificent creatures is simply so dreamlike.
Yet the dolphin has somehow found itself at the center of a storm in Japan with interest groups such as fisherman, environmentalists, surfers, government officials and health organizations in a frenzy. Culture, tradition, emotion, people’s livelihoods, xenophobia, toxic poison and of course money are at the heart of the matter.
While we were working on this issue of the magazine, news broke of an environmental group completing a year-long covert operation in Taiji, Wakayama, to document the dolphin hunts. Dolphin hunting is not illegal in Japan, but the group believes the hunts are commercially unnecessary and opposes the methods used to kill the dolphins.
Health reasons are another concern, as dangerous levels of mercury are found in dolphin and pilot whale meat that have been sold in supermarkets and even served in school lunches. It’s a sensitive issue in communities with a proud fishing (and whaling) history.
Outdoor Japan is unique in that we have a large Japanese and English-speaking readership and, as readers can discover different perspectives within our magazine, we hope they’ll also share their opinions on this issue. We’d like to hear where you stand. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.