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  • Sunday Tangent: CNN: Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 4th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  For a Sunday Tangent, here is a hard-hitting article (thanks CNN) showing how activism against a corrupt but entrenched system gets treated:  Detention and interrogation of activists, possible sentencing under criminal law, and international bodies turning a blind eye to their own mandate.  Lucky for the author (and us) he is out on bail so he could write this.  He wouldn’t be bailed if he were NJ.  More on the IWC’s corruption in documentary The Cove — yet another reason why the bully boys who target people’s families (yet don’t get arrested for their “activism”) don’t want you to see it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    IWC’s shame: Japan’s whale slaughter
    By Junichi Sato, Special to CNN June 25, 2010 courtesy of SS

    Junichi Sato, colleague face charges after finding corruption in Japan’s whaling industry
    Sato: He and Toru Suzuki were held, questioned, often taped to chairs, for 23 days
    Sato says Japan uses guise of “scientific research” to slaughter whales
    Sato: As IWC does nothing, Iceland, Norway and Japan kill 30,000 whales
    Editor’s note: Junichi Sato is the Greenpeace Japan program director, overseeing advocacy efforts for the international environmental organization’s Japanese branch.

    (CNN) — After just two days of closed-door negotiations, the leaders who had gathered at the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, Morocco, announced no agreement was reached on the IWC chair’s proposal to improve whale conservation.

    Greenpeace did not support the proposal, but we had hoped governments would change it to become an agreement to end whaling, not a recipe for continuing it.

    It is particularly disappointing to me, because my professional commitment to end the whale hunt in my country of Japan — which led to the exposure of an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling industry — has come at significant personal cost.

    The investigation I conducted with my colleague, Toru Suzuki, led to our arrests in front of banks of media outlets who had been told about it in advance.

    The homes of Greenpeace office and staff members were raided. Seventy-five police officers were deployed to handcuff two peaceful activists. We were held without charge for 23 days; questioned for up to 10 hours a day while tied to chairs and without a lawyer present. We are now out on bail awaiting verdict and sentencing, expected in early September.

    If I can risk my future to bring the fraudulent Japanese hunt to an end, if whaling whistle-blowers are prepared to risk their lives to expose the corruption, how can it be that the IWC has yet again failed to take the political risk to pressure my government to end the scientific whaling sham?

    Since the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific research,” making a mockery of the moratorium. By claiming that slaughtering thousands of whales, in waters designated a whale sanctuary no less, is a scientific experiment needed to understand whales, Japan has violated the spirit and intention of the moratorium as well as the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

    Iceland and Norway have simply ignored the moratorium. Those two nations, together with Japan, have killed more than 30,000 whales since then. I have always opposed my country’s hunt, which is why I decided to join Greenpeace. While it may be an emotionally charged political issue outside Japan, domestically it barely causes a political ripple. In 2006, Greenpeace decided to focus the bulk of its anti-whaling campaign in Japan to bring the issue home.

    Wholly funded by Japanese taxpayers, the whaling program has produced no peer-reviewed scientific research and has been repeatedly told by the IWC that the so-called research is not needed or wanted. All it has produced is a massive bill for the taxpayers and tons of surplus whale meat that the Japanese public does not want to eat. It has also produced endless rumors and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

    Two years ago, following a tip from three former whalers turned whistle-blowers, my colleagues at Greenpeace Japan and I began a public interest investigation and discovered that indeed, corruption runs deep.

    All three whalers claimed that whale meat was routinely embezzled, with the full knowledge of government and whaling fleet operator officials. Greenpeace eventually intercepted one of nearly 100 suspicious boxes coming off the ships.

    Although its contents were labeled as cardboard, 23.5 kilograms of prime whale meat were inside, destined for a private address.

    On May 15, 2008, we handed over the box to the authorities, with additional evidence of the crime. Initially the Tokyo district prosecutor began to investigate. But we were eventually charged with trespass and theft of the whale meat, valued at nearly 60,000 yen (about $550 at the time). We face from 18 months up to 10 years in jail for exposing the truth behind an industry that is financially, morally and scientifically bankrupt.

    The U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Arbitary Detention has ruled that our human rights have been breached and the prosecution is politically motivated. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern about our case. Amnesty International, Transparency International, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, countless international legal experts, politicians and more than half a million individuals have raised their voices in opposition to the prosecution.

    We will be tried and sentenced in September, more than two years after we first exposed the corruption. But the scandal does not end there. Just last week, more allegations emerged that Japan engages in vote-buying and bribery to keep its whaling fleet in the water.
    But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

    And yet, the IWC continues to close its doors and ears to the reality of Japan’s commercial whaling. I came to Morocco in the hope that this, the International Year of Biodiversity, could mean an end to all commercial whaling, but I leave knowing that governments are only interested in taking strong public positions on whales but not in taking action to save them, not even behind closed doors.

    Mine and Toru’s political prosecution is a clear sign that Japan has no intention of easily letting go of its debt-ridden whaling program. There are too many vested interests inside the government. That is not surprising. What is more disappointing is that those vested interests have gone unchallenged by the IWC, the body set up to conserve whales.

    It may be surprising that in this day and age, and given the huge public interest in the issue, conversations about saving whales are held in secret. But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

    After two years of negotiations, this year’s meeting could have been an opportunity for the IWC to actually move forward and end the status quo. But its collective failure means that 24 years after the establishment of the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland and Norway will continue again to hunt whales with impunity.

    I challenge the commission to throw open its doors and shine a spotlight on the corruption that is so evident, investigate all the allegations affecting the IWC that have been laid clearly before it on numerous occasions and realize that it is not only Japan’s international reputation that has been tainted by the failure in Agadir.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Junichi Sato.


    18 Responses to “Sunday Tangent: CNN: Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion”

    1. Allen Says:

      Dang….I’m just trying to imagine what would happen if they took YOU…I’m glad he is sticking to what he believes in. I’m glad he is not giving up.

      — I’d have a miserable time.

    2. Behan Says:

      Questioning for 23 days for up to ten hours a day without a lawyer present sounds more like “torture” than questioning.

      — But it’s SOP for the NPA.

    3. JP Says:

      In Japan, you don’t have the right to a lawyer while under interrogation and there are no limits on how long they can question you or under what circumstances. This would be a good place to start the legal reform that is needed.

    4. Karsten Says:

      This account does not mention that Sato and Suzuki are suspected thieves, formally charged under Japanese law with larceny for stealing a package from a shipping firm. Most people arrested by the police for larceny are questioned for the full period of 23 days, and many are held longer.

      No matter what “Cause” they cite, stealing is wrong and should be punished. Greenpeace seems to condone theft. Hope that is not the case, but it appears that way. If they chose to “expose corruption” by stealing packages, then they should face the consequences for their illegal acts. They got what they wanted in publicity, and they should pay a price for breaking the law. Stealing is wrong, no matter what.

      — As is the officially-sanctioned theft of the whale meat, I’m sure they’d counterargue.

    5. David Says:

      Actually, the article does mention the theft charge briefly.
      Prosecutors will drop cases they have little chance of winning, to maintain their track record of nearly 100% convictions. They drop cases often, if they sense there is a chance of losing in court. They did not drop this case, so they likely have enough evidence that will result in convictions for these people.

    6. Jerry Says:

      People seem to forget that the IWC is a voluntary organization that was formed to help whale stocks recover to the point where a sustainable commercial harvest could be reinstated – literally to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.

      Thanks to the non-whaling nations consistently blocking the return to a sustainable harvest countries like Norway and Iceland have simply ignored the IWC. Japan, at least, is following the rules to the letter (if ignoring the spirit).

      The thing to remember is the IWC is a voluntary organization without any authority to enact or enforce anything. It is not backed by treaty or law. Honestly Japan should simply remove itself from the organization (like Canada did several years ago in protest of it’s continued refusal to reinstate a managed commercial harvest) and hunt at it’s leisure.

      — Hang on, Jerry. Back to your apparent condoning of “old-fashioned activism” that involves bullying and intimidation of innocents. Let’s have a clear disavowal of this strategy from you or you will not be welcome here at There is only so far that one can take your exceptionalism and Devils’ Advocacy (if it is actually that), and bullying little old ladies in front of their neighbors is clearly over the line.

    7. john k Says:


      Jerry is correct in his statement. In the IWC’s own words** regarding in fractions:

      Article IX

      1.Each Contracting Government shall take appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this Convention and the punishment of infractions against the said provisions in operations carried out by persons or by vessels under its jurisdiction.
      2.No bonus or other remuneration calculated with relation to the results of their work shall be paid to the gunners and crews of whale catchers in respect of any whales the taking of which is forbidden by this Convention.
      3.Prosecution for infractions against or contraventions of this Convention shall be instituted by the Government having jurisdiction over the offence.
      4.Each Contracting Government shall transmit to the Commission full details of each infraction of the provisions of this Convention by persons or vessels under the jurisdiction of that Government as reported by its inspectors. This information shall include a statement of measures taken for dealing with the infraction and of penalties imposed.


      So, under item 3, Japan being the Gov.t with juristriction says, hmmm…nothing to report. Thus, case closed.

      Since in the IWC it “allows” scietific reserach. Japan exploites this, depsite being told by the IWC that killing is not necessary to obtain the data.

      The IWC has no power other than, “wanne be part of my club”…

      — I’m not questioning the accuracy of Jerry’s statement about the IWC. I’m questioning his morality regarding activism. Reading comprehension please. Spell check too.

    8. Jerry Says:

      Debito is – of course – referring to my post made almost a month ago in this posting – where I expressed that the opponents of The Cove were just engaging in good old fashioned activism.

      Although I’m still at a loss for why he would think, even when playing my most evil devils advocate, I’d have any sort of approval for people harassing little old ladies – after all you attack the issue not the person.

      [Further ersatz Devil’s Advocacy bullshit deleted, where he concludes by attacking the person. This is why I have my doubts about the morality of this character and how seriously he takes his own comments to]

    9. Adam Says:

      Debito, I think it’s a waste of time and energy to debate Jerry; after about a decade here I’ve found that many gaijin have either adopted an extremely friendly attitude towards the Japanese police state, towards authority in general, and with that the self-righteousness of the Japanese themselves towards the most obvious transgressor of a law, or worse, a custom, while conveniently ignoring both the perhaps less blatant but certainly more egregious illegalities and immoralities being committed daily as well as the soul-crushing totalitarian actions of the authorities here.

      Indeed, I’ve seen friends of mine whom I’ve known since we arrived here years ago subtly and not-so-subtely turn into crypto-fascists themselves. I think there’s something of a Stockholm syndrome at play from being mistrusted so much by Japanese people. It’s just one of many ways a number of gaijin try to become more Japanese than the Japanese themselves, and such true-believers, like Born-again Christians, are pretty much impossible to debate.

      Let Karsten, John, and Jerry miss the moral forest for the legal little bonsai trees they’re so zealously guarding. I doubt any of them has 1/10th the moral fiber or courage of their convictions that Suzuki has, merely the ersatz version of high dudgeon.

      — Jerry has a long history of altercation and express personal acrimony towards me on the “Life in Japan” mailing list. I refused to answer his nasty posts. So he got even more nasty and shitsukoi about it. It got so bad that the moderator, a person who was loath to remove anyone from the list on principle, unprecedentedly removed him and him only ever. So he came to He had been offering reasonable counterarguments for the most part up to this point. But like most of these hectors and badgers, they don’t like to admit they might be wrong (like in supporting these bullies), and when called out on their mistake, they get spiteful and nasty all over again. Happened again, so bye Jerry. No doubt he’ll be back under a different pseudonym, but if the exchange gets nasty again under whatever name, bye again.

    10. Adam Says:


      Once I started making the above comment my “pen” kind of got away with me because I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about how many foreigners here either adopt authoritarian attitudes, or that people predisposed to that way of thinking are more likely to like living here. To be clear I like/love Japan in many ways and am not a Japan basher, but the authoritarian police state mentality is problem, because it’s so culturally entrenched. Japanese society is more prone to this thinking that some others IMHO, so the fact that other places, like the US and now with the G-20 situation in Toronto, even a relatively liberal country like Canada, are becoming more heavy-handed in their restrictions of dissent, makes it even more likely that freedom to work proactively to educate people about social/moral problems will be further quashed here.

      This is why I have little patience with people who consciously or not act as spokesmen for the police state; they remind me of the scrawny kid in my seventh grade class who bullied others because he had a couple of large knuckle-dragging friends to back him up.

      On another but somewhat related note, I was questioned by the police recently because I was sitting outside late in the evening working on my laptop…the horror. And told to move along though I wasn’t breaking any law. I wanted to get advice on how to deal with this, that is stand up for my rights if this happens again. Your FAQ page didn’t really answer my Qs. More details because they’re amusing and instructive if I can be pointed to the appropriate place/way to post my story and ask for feedback (and good replies in Japanese, I’m competent but not fluent). Thanks.

    11. Joe Says:


      ” I was questioned by the police recently because I was sitting outside late in the evening working on my laptop…the horror. And told to move along….”

      Sheesh, this is unbelievable. Are you sure you were wearing any clothes?

      — Not unbelievable at all for some of us. First cycling while foreign, then walking while foreign, then being visible while foreign. It’s only a natural extension of logic under the NPA’s unfettered racial profiling practices to tell you to more along if you’re typing while foreign. But we’re digressing.

    12. jon Says:


      What part of town was it? If Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Tokyo, I can understand it but I somehow doubt they had your best interests in mind, but then I m cynical.

      I suppose you could have said in a non confrontational way ” ok, officer can you tell me another place round here to sit and work?” (“hoka no [suwaru] tokoro wo oshiete kuremasu ka”)- the police are, after all, supposed to be there to help people…

      — We’re getting off track. Bring it back.

    13. Adam Says:

      Debito my story is worth telling because it was outrageous and chock-full of the typical gaijin-are-criminals attitudes, I don’t want to hijack this thread but will share it IF you’ll be so kind as to point out the way to do that, if it’s possible.

      — Okay, go ahead right here under this blog entry. Thanks.

    14. Adam Says:

      Okay, fine then.

      So, I was living short-term in a place without an internet connection. I could pay NTT 12,000 yen and wait two weeks to have a connection for the next month–no thanks–or do without. My laptop could catch about 10 networks but of course all were locked…..digression about that: the relative lack of open internet connections in this country is IMO indicative of the unfortunate Japanese trait of hoarding, and holding, not wanting to give anything away. Americans can be that way too, but here it’s so pronounced, and ends up costing more than it saves.

      Outside of Tokyo it can even be very difficult to find an internet cafe, which means less exchange of information, and that hurts the economy. The gov’t sponsored internet connection “CC guest” is a joke, it rarely works. A Korean friend visiting here told me one can access the internet for free almost everywhere in Korea. This is a lesson Japan needs to learn IMO, spend a little to make more.

      Anyway, one day I took my laptop outside and walked around the neighborhood until I found an open network. It happened to be near a shrine with a parking lot, so I’d sit at the edge of the street on a low wall where the parking lot began–but I figured on public property–at pretty much any hour and do my email and surf the net a bit.

      I certainly got a number of looks from passerby and the neighbors, from the latter that all-too-common look of “you’re doing something different/”hen” and we don’t like that” but of course no one ever said anything. And I always made a point to say hello to passersby and pet their dogs, especially if the owner was attractive and female!

      So one night around 10PM I’m sitting there surfing the ‘net and a cop car pulls up. Two cops get out and question me as to my activity there. I never speak to the police in Japanese but am very cordial and speak very slow and clear English. The younger one spoke good English, and told me that a neighbor called them saying “there’s a foreigner who looks like he’s doing drugs in the parking lot.” I could barely restrain a laugh and nearly quipped “well the internet is a kind of drug isn’t it” but thought better of risking there being a misunderstanding (wow the gaijin confessed without being coerced!).

      I assured them I only did the state-sanctioned drug, alcohol, and that in moderate quantities, and when they were told I’m here on a cultural visa doing research on a traditional Japanese art their attitude softened a bit. But they told me I had to stop surfing the net there, and leave.

      Now if I’d been standing there smoking a cigarette and reading a manga showing underage girls being raped and murdered I would have been a-okay, right?

      I wasn’t doing anything “untoward” to say nothing of illegal. I didn’t want to provoke the cops, but also didn’t have the Japanese at hand to make it clear that I was within my rights to sit at the edge of a public street, not on private property, and do something that wasn’t causing meiwaku to anyone, not even the scooter bosozoku cruising by every once in a while (funny how they’re never accosted by the cops).

      Debito how would you (or anyone else who cares to jump in) suggest one respond to such a situation. I understand you believe strongly in standing on principle, and that’s what this is about. Thanks.

      — I would have left and come back later.

    15. Adam Says:

      “– I would have left and come back later.”

      That’s a response (for me, and from you)? I’m disappointed. First, what if they come back? Then I have to say something, you know why.

      Second, and more importantly, that’s just playing the Japanese game. You make the impression–strongly–that you are fighting to prevent discrimination against NJ in the only way possible, and that’s to break the glass BS curtain around all their plausible and not-so-plausible denials, which is the only way to raise awareness. Don’t you think this was a perfect example of this?

      I’m not interested in whinging about Japan or blathering on the internet about my life. I’m extremely busy but took the time out to relate what–I thought at least–was a situation that would be right up your alley of interest and expertise such as it is.

      Looks like I wasted my time.

      — You wanted a miracle from me? Looks like you got your hopes up. Look, you had a testy neighbor, who didn’t like seeing you standing there with a computer, and he or she lodged a complaint. The cops felt they had to do something about it, so they checked it out and as a milquetoast measure asked you to move along. You had a reasonable interaction that was not as adversarial as many I’ve seen or heard about (not even a Gaijin Card Check, it seems), and you yourself said you lacked the language abilities to make an effective case or really “raise awareness”. So I would have gone away and come back.

      If the same crank saw you and made the same complaint again, the chances the police would come back are minimal (especially since they actually saw you weren’t much of a threat, so at the time they just checked it out and did that silly little something). And if they did come back, you just say you misunderstood, go away and come back again. They are not going to arrest you. They might do a Gaijin Card Check, which is a nuisance, but once they get to know you (if they haven’t by now), they’ll leave you alone, and you get free internet. It’s a bother, but you will get what you want.

      Look, you neither have the means nor the language ability to deal with this with the subtlety this needs, so passive resistance and balls are all you have in your toolbox. But you haven’t put your culture shock in perspective. You charge in here with your case under this blog entry, without even seeking out a germane blog entry to file this under (there are plenty of entries dealing with police attitude or action) and expect me to join you in making a federal case. Sorry, but going away and coming back is what I would do.

      Don’t ask for my advice and get all pissy if you don’t like it, moreover thanklessly claim how busy you are and how we wasted your time because we enabled you to get this off your chest. You’re welcome.

    16. James Annan Says:

      I would just add that using “free” wifi is actually a crime in some (many?) countries, though I don’t know about Japan.

      (“Free” meaning accidentally/ignorantly unsecured, not explicitly and deliberately offered to the public, of course.)

      Not that anyone would actually care about it normally, but when police are already interested, it might not be the best thing to bring up as “defence”!

      My advice: build a cantenna (google it) and “do it at home”, as the train adverts say :-)

      FWIW I also think Debito’s suggestion was a good one. The most practical solution is often to defuse the immediate situation, and then go on doing what you want.

    17. D.B. Cooper Says:

      Greenpeace anti-whaling activists Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato (the “Tokyo Two”) have been facing trial for nearly two years in Japan and now a verdict will be announced on Monday September 6th.

    18. D.B. Cooper Says:

      Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, exposed widespread corruption in Japan’s whaling programme – in return, they have been handed a one year suspended prison sentence. However, despite the harsh punishment the two anti-whaling activists stood in court as heroes today, having successfully put whaling on trial, both in court, and in Japan’s national media.

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