Sake Barrel Smashing
Sake Barrel Smashing in Aomori
We recently opened a new Communications Centre in the northern fishing district of Aomori, Japan. As we mark 20 years of non-violent environmental campaigning in Japan this year, we're bringing our message of healthy oceans, whale protection, and sustainable fisheries direct to the people of this port city. New Zealander, Mal Wren is there as the Project Coordinator and he writes this about his time in Aomori...

It's certainly been a period of contrast since I arrived in Japan a couple of months ago. During the planning and development period for establishing the Aomori Communications Centre i was based in Shinjuku, Toyko, where our local train station has the best part of NZ's population passing through - every day!

Now for the past month i have been based in Aomori, known in Japan as one of the most rural of areas. "A dinky little seaside village....?' a good friend from home asked. Well, yes, kind of - in a 300 000 thousand people dinky kind of way...

It's far cry from home in Muriwai on the west coast of Auckland...

Aomori is a fishing and agricultural region in the wintery north of Japan (another contrast from NZ's sunsoaked summer), and Aomori City its capital. I have come here with colleagues from our Greenpeace Japan office to open the communications centre and to talk to people about Greenpeace and our campaigns - particularly our sustainable oceans and whaling campaigns. Both are particularly relevant here, a fisheries and seafood area of some renown, and an area from where some of the crew of the 'research' whaling fleet come from.

Unfortunately they have both been portrayed badly and misunderstood. We are here to correct that. It's a crucial time for the debate here in Japan with more and more people questioning their tax being wasted on whaling while not enough focus is put into ensuring that the fish that is so important here, will still here for their kids.

And the locals here get it. From the moment we cracked the Sake Barrel (a rare honour i'm told - almost as rare as the tie i wore!) we have received great interest and a stream of visitors talking about a range of threats to the local environment. As a rural area they are concerned about the impact of GMO's on a centuries old heritage of rice and apple crops they are famous for; and as an area that has again had to cancel their local snow festival, they are very concerned about increasing impacts of climate change.

Not so much contrast there...

Over the next few months we'll be out and about at various events, visiting schools and community groups and hosting presentations to talk about the solutions to many of these problems and what they and the Japanese Government can do about it. Some of the team were out over the weekend even further north at the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival (where there was still just enough snow!) where we created an ice sculpture that represented our vision for a healthy ocean. They talked to many of the 2 million visitors and were amazed at the understanding of the issue and the encouragement they received. Check it out:

There was still some confusion though - when one passerby was aked the question of "do you know of greenpeace?", they replied with the answer "oh, yes, the one to eat. I like Edamame (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edamame) better"...

It's going to be a challenge, but our friends here say they sense a turning tide and i am looking forward to working with them to help bring it about.

more soon mal