WE LOVE JAPAN, BUT NOT HIGH SEAS WHALING

by Melanie Duchin

January 29, 2007

Yesterday was Sunday, and traditionally, someone offers to cook dinner so the cooks can have at least half a day off.

Making sushi in the galley of the Esperanza Last night the campaigners on board (me from the US office, Karli from Greenpeace International and Sakyo from Greenpeace Japan) cooked a Japanese dinner for the crew. We started at 1pm and it took the entire five hours to get all of the food ready for the crew by six pm. We had a pretty ambitious menu: nori maki (seaweed wrapped rolls of sushi rice and vegetables), onigiri (triangule-shaped rice balls with a pickled umeboshi plum in the middle and a seaweed wrapper), miso soup and two kinds of shiratame (sticky rice balls) for dessert: one with sweet adzuki beans called oshiruko, the second served with soybean powder called kinako. We had a lot of fun, and of course the best was learning from Sakyo how to make rice, the nori maki sushi rolls, miso soup and shiratame. I love Japanese food, and at home I frequently make nori maki and miso soup, but I learned last night that I’ve been using a lot of non-traditional (read: wrong!) ways of cooking Japanese food. Sakyo was very polite and diplomatic about my and Karli’s non-traditional ways of cooking Japanese food, calling it "interesting."

But there was another reason we wanted to make a Japanese dinner for the crew, and that’s because the campaign to stop high seas whaling is more than just this ship’s expedition to the Southern Ocean. At the same time, our Greenpeace colleagues in Japan are running a targeted campaign to unravel the misconceptions being told to the Japanese public by their government. For years, Greenpeace and the pro-whale/anti-whaling movement has been characterized by the Japanese government as "anti-Japanese," playing to the nationalistic sentiment of the Japanese public. This is flat out false, our campaign is and has always targeted those responsible for high seas whaling: the Fisheries Agency of Japan and companies with a financial interest in high seas whaling, NOT the Japanese public.

In fact, our campaign is on-side with the majority of the Japanese public. Greenpeace Japan conducted an independent opinion poll and found out that two-thirds of the Japanese public are against high seas whaling. The poll also found that 95 percent of the Japanese public has never or rarely eaten whale meat. Contrary to what the Japanese government may say, whaling and eating whale meat are not a traditional part of Japanese culture. It was introduced by General MacArthur after World War II to deal with the starvation ravaging the country. As Sakyo tells us, older Japanese in their 50s, 60s and 70s may have eaten whale meat, but younger generations of Japanese don’t touch the stuff.

The most important message we are trying to get across to the Japanese public is that we love Japan, but we don’t love Japanese high seas whaling. So last night’s dinner, besides being a nice thing to do for the cooks on a Sunday, was a way to bring a part of Japanese culture that we love to the messroom of the Esperanza.

– Melanie

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