Jun 19


WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

An article in today’s Times discusses the reaction of right wingers in Japan to The Cove, a documentary about dolphin hunting in a place called Taiji.  This group, 右翼 or uyoku, are said to number about 10,000 throughout the country and have been responsible for various acts of violence such as torching the houses of politicians whose views they don’t agree with (i.e. regarding visits to Yasukuni Shrine).  This time they are protesting outside theaters attempting to show this film, insisting that it will “poison Japan’s soul.”  However, there is significant interest in this doc as evidenced by the turnout of over 700 people for a one-time screening in Tokyo last week, where about 100 had to be turned away due to lack of space.

Quoted in the article is the documentary filmmaker and author Tatsuya Mori, who I had the pleasure of getting to know in the summer of 2007 during my time as an interpreter on Peace Boat, a Japan cruise ship that sails around the world for three months.  On board we were showing his fascinating films A (1998) and A2 (2001), which depict the everyday lives of followers of the Aum Shinrikyo religious group responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack.  They are unbelievably candid and raw, and reveal the aftermath of the attack such as the ubiquitous presence of revenge-seeking uyoku.  Insight into how these films came to be and Mori’s personal commentary on the Japanese media can be found in his 2000 book A (Aum, Araki, Asahara, Assault, Antinomy, Arrest, Answer, Agony).

When asked how he was able to gain access to their notoriously secret compound to get his footage, Mori said that he was the only person to directly send them a letter.  Other members of the media dashed off faxes or phone calls, but the fact that Mori took the time to compose an actual letter is what enabled followers to trust him and allow him into their lives.  He was also the only person to request the filming of a documentary; most outlets were interested in more sensational aspects such as an interview with the group’s founder Shoko Asahara (from my JET hometown prefecture of Kumamoto, currently awaiting execution) or shots of specific religious training.

This controversy over The Cove reminds me of how A/A2 was shown on Peace Boat, but not screened in Japan or broadcast on television (though the films were available for purchase).  Like A/A2, The Cove is something that the Japanese should be able to see should they choose to.  The article concludes with a quote from a housewife who had attended the Tokyo screening which I feel sums up the situation perfectly: “I’m glad I saw it.  We live in a society that hides away the dirty things. To know is a big first step.”  Whether in regard to learning disabilities or unsavory business practices, knowledge is power.

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