Do the Japanese Eat Dolphins?
The strangest thing about the so-called Taiji Dolphin Slaughter is that no Japanese I’ve talked to seem to know anything about it. The most common reaction I get when I bring it up is something like, “What’s a Taiji?” It sometimes jogs the memory of the person I’m talking to when I explain that it’s a town in Wakayama Prefecture, and then they say something like, “Oh, Taiji. It’s famous for whaling, right?” I answer, “Yes. And outside of Japan, it’s infamous for its yearly dolphin hunt. They kill and eat dolphins; which isn’t very clever because dolphin meat tends to have a high concentration of mercury. It’s well-known abroad. I’ve seen it on CNN.” The usual response I get to that is, “Japanese don’t eat dolphin.”
The news media in Japan have been practicing self-censorship on this story to such an extent that even when I bring the topic up in large classes, not one of the students has heard anything about it. This in Saitama City which, even though it is thought to be the height of gauche by Tokyoites who disparage it by calling it “Dasaitama”, is hardly a backwater. And regardless of location, my students my haven’t exactly been living under rocks. They are by and large intelligent, well-educated people, who take an interest in the news and current events.
The Japanese news media are doing the Japanese public a great disservice by withholding information that is germane to the way their country is perceived by the world at large.