Reuters: Showings of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove cancelled in Japan due to threat of protest


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Hi Blog.  Here we go again.  Something critical of Japan becomes derided as “anti-Japanese” and is threatened if it gets shown in Japan.  This society has to learn that criticism of Japan is actually good for Japan, and that bully boys who want to suppress healthy debate about an issue should be ignored or criticized themselves as unhealthy and unconstitutional.  Yet protests by The Left go ignored because they probably won’t get violent, while protests by The Right just might, and the police won’t prosecute if they do.  Hence the incentive to become violent is there for the bullies, and they get even more power through intimidation.  Canceling showings of a controversial movie like this just strengthens the bullies and helps them proliferate.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  Do what another Reader suggested yesterday:  Get a copy of The Cove and show it to your friends and students. has had no problem selling right-wing and racist literature in Japanese, so why not?  (Now, if only they would get around to putting up a version in Japanese.  Here’s information on The Cove in Japanese from the directors.)


Dolphin hunt film screenings cancelled in Tokyo

Scientific American/Reuters June 5, 2010 Courtesy of Ken’ichi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo screenings of “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary about a grisly annual dolphin hunt have been canceled over planned protests by conservatives who say the film is anti-Japanese, the distributor said on Saturday.

The film, which picked up an Oscar for best documentary feature this year, follows a group of activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and featuring Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer from the “Flipper” television series, “The Cove” has prompted activists to threaten street demonstrations.

Planned showings of the film at two cinemas in Tokyo this month have been canceled because of fears the protests might inconvenience movie-goers and others, according to Unplugged, the Japan distributor.

Screenings at one Osaka theater have also been called off, but Unplugged is still in negotiations to show the movie at 23 venues around the country this summer, said a spokeswoman for the company, who asked not to be named.

Unplugged has received threatening phone calls and protesters have gathered outside its offices, she said.

“‘The Cove’ is absolutely not an anti-Japanese film,” Takeshi Kato of Unplugged said in a faxed statement. “I believe a deep and constructive debate is needed about the content of the film.”

O’Barry, who is set to visit Japan from June 8, said Japanese film-goers should be allowed to see the documentary.

“It’s not right that a small minority of extremists could take this right away from them,” he said in a statement. “To do so is a clear threat to democracy.”

The film was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, but has yet to be made widely available to the public.

Japan’s government says the hunting of dolphins and whales is an important cultural tradition.

New Zealander Pete Bethune is currently on trial in Tokyo for boarding a Japanese vessel in an attempt to stop the annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

(Writing by Isabel Reynolds; editing by Ron Popeski)

34 comments on “Reuters: Showings of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove cancelled in Japan due to threat of protest

  • You can stream J versions online. Google it. I watched it with a few J friends, spread it around and it really hit them at an emotional level. They became anti-dolphin-hunt and spread it to their friends, too; hopefully the spread continued.

    However, one friend was very against the documentary and kept stating “That’s against Japanese law! They lied! They’re not allowed to do that. They have no right to invade and judge us! You think it’s wrong because you think dolphins are cute!”

    Everyone was shocked at his reaction. We didn’t discriminate based on POV, but he, on the other hand, became hostile and ended a 5-way friendship, because we weren’t pro-dolphin-hunt.

  • Hi. I’m from Japan. I took part in the protest activities against the

    screening of “The Cove” actually. Because I reached a clear conclusion

    that “The Cove” is obviously anti-Japanese propaganda on the pretext

    of anti-whaling as a result of watching this movie (full length) on

    free video site. “THE COVE” looks at Japanese whaling from a one-

    sided point of view. “THE COVE” takes a self-righteous and intrusive

    attitude. And more, “The Cove” violates human rights of the Japanese

    fishermen who engage in slaughtering dolphins in Taiji Wakayama Japan.

    Do you know where the nearest slaughterhouse to your town is? If you

    have a moment, please visit there. Can you get permission to take

    photos of slaughtering cattle(the moment of killing them) and workers’

    faces? It is impossible at least in Japan. The slaughtering (killing)

    section is called “untouchable world” in a social activity everywhere

    around the world. However, Louie Psihoyos, director of “The Cove”

    didn’t give any consideration to human-rights of the Japanese

    fishermen (because they are Japanese). This is racial discrimination

    against the Japanese people in obvious.

    Do you think the Japanese society should accept “The Cove”? Freedom of expression? Rights to know? We Japanese must protect our right to exist from racist. If you want to know about “The Cove” from the Japanese view, please check on my blog.



    — I see. Who elected you to give “The Japanese View”? And to interpret that “view” to decide for us what we can and cannot see in public?

  • Typical! Freedom of speech!Ha! Let people make their own minds up. Unfortunately, the ban doesn’t surprise me in the least. Criticism is healthy, no matter how unpleasant it might feel at the time. But I guess a lot of these vested interests fear criticism because criticism may jeopardize the money they are making from the venture.
    I watched the movie on-line with my Japanese partner. She was disgusted not only with the contents of the movie but the very fact that the Japanese media has obviously conspired in keeping the slaughter/mercury allegations from getting to the public. Shame on them.
    Damn, it just makes me want to show it to as many Japanese people as possible now.

  • Seems like some good old fashioned activism and it’s getting results – maybe not the results you want but hey, it’s activism right?

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Nice to see 55 Japanese writers and artist types came out in favor of showing the film today. They cited freedom of expression. Sorry Debito, at this moment I don’t have the link, but will search again.

  • @Tamagawaboat:

    Thank you for sharing with us your point of view.
    However, pressuring for the film not to get shown (as opposed to demonstrating to show disagreement) is attacking freedom of expression.

    When you say “We Japanese must protect our right to exist from racists”, do you also consider racists other Japanese people like the webmaster, or the 55 people who just signed a petition for The Cove to be screened despite protests?



    ザ・コーヴ:上映中止に反対声明 監督ら55人




  • Japan is the only place I know of where the threat of a protest is more effective than an actual protest. Always thinking two moves ahead…


    > anti-Japanese propaganda on the pretext of anti-whaling

    The documentary is anti-whaling, not anti-Japanese.

    > “THE COVE” looks at Japanese whaling from a one-sided point of view.

    Feel free to present another side.

    >“The Cove” violates human rights of the Japanese fishermen who engage in slaughtering dolphins

    I am unfamiliar with the human right to slaughter dolphins. Please clarify.

    > Can you get permission to take photos of slaughtering cattle(the moment of killing them) and workers’ faces? It is impossible at least in Japan.

    Apparently it is possible, hence the documentary.

    > Louie Psihoyos, director of “The Cove” didn’t give any consideration to human-rights of the Japanese fishermen (because they are Japanese).

    Again, which specific human rights are you referring to? Also, how do you rationally link this to their being Japanese?

    > This is racial discrimination against the Japanese people in obvious.

    Not so obvious to me. What exactly are the racial elements to the issue?

    > If you want to know about “The Cove” from the Japanese view, please check on my blog.

    I read a bit of it. Will try to read the rest tonight. Not that I agree with it, though. You are one Japanese with _a_ view; you do not speak for all other Japanese. I have my own view, and surely others have their own as well.

  • Hey, TAMAGAWABOAT, you and your fascist buddies do not speak for all of “the Japanese society”. There are plenty of Japanese people who want to see this movie and have it be seen. Your opinion is not more important than theirs. You don’t get to choose what movies get to be shown in Japan.

    Furthermore, your position is as poorly-reasoned as it is offensive. You throw around concepts like human rights and racism without any apparent understanding of what they really mean, and your arguments, such as they are, are hopelessly naive.

    For example, it makes no sense to equate the Taiji killing with a cattle slaughterhouse. You can’t film inside a slaughterhouse because it is private property. The owner gets to decide whether to let people inside. In contrast, the mass killing in “The Cove” takes place outdoors, on public land and in public waters. Moreover, cows are relatively unintelligent animals raised on farms to be slaughtered quickly and humanely. Dolphins are highly intelligent wild animals that suffer for a prolonged period as the fishermen gradually and brutally hack them to death. Bad, bad analogy. I’ve often heard that the Japanese educational system produces students incapable of writing a coherent essay; after reading your inane ramblings, I’m starting to believe it.

    Finally, you seem to think it’s a problem that “The Cove” is one-sided. News flash, genius: All documentaries are one-sided. That’s kind of the point. If a filmmaker doesn’t care enough about an issue to have a strong point of view on it, chances are he’s not going to make a documentary about it. If you don’t like “The Cove”, why don’t you make another movie showing the fishermen’s side of the story? I guess that would take more talent than you have, though, since all you seem to be able to do is march around in demonstrations telling other people to shut up.

    The way this whole free society thing works is, the movie goes into theaters and if you don’t want to see it, you don’t go to see it. You can even criticize the movie if you want. But you don’t block it from being shown by threatening violence against people who disagree with you. It’s too bad you don’t understand that it’s the Nihonjinron-esque, neo-nationalist creeps like you who are the real racists in Japan.

  • (株)飛日空 says:


    I agree that the film was semi-propagandic in nature and that it could have taken a more objective feel in presenting the information it wanted to present. There is however, no denying the impact it made as a film in its current form. Regardless of the way it presented the information, the facts themselves do not change.

    So, could you please elaborate just how the film violated the human rights of the Japanese fishermen portrayed in the film as you mention here in your comment below?

    “However, Louie Psihoyos, director of “The Cove” didn’t give any consideration to human-rights of the Japanese fishermen (because they are Japanese). This is racial discrimination against the Japanese people in obvious. Do you think the Japanese society should accept “The Cove”? Freedom of expression? Rights to know? We Japanese must protect our right to exist from racist.”

    If you watched the Japanese version of the film I hope that it mentioned that the people involved in the film used every legal avenue to work within rules established in Japan in order to access what should be public park land. In one segment of the film, O’Barry is even shown offering to pay the fishermen the equivalent of what they were earning if they would stop hunting dolphins. Does a gesture like this seem like an action that a “racist” or a violator of human rights would do?

    I hope that the film also mentioned that O’Barry was indiscriminate in his work, eg. entering US government restricted areas to free dolphins in captivity there which was shown in one segment of the film.

    Regarding the slaughtering of animals such as the cows, pigs and chickens that are raised to provide meat for human consumption, they are domesticated and bred for that purpose. Dolphins are not.

    I would also like to hear your opinion of the reports of mercury contained within the dolphin meat.

    I would also like to know if you condone selling of this meat to consumers in Japan.

    I would also like to hear your opinion on the distinct lack of coverage by the Japanese media regarding mercury levels in the meat.

    I would also like to the comparison of this lack of Japanese media coverage on mercury poisoning being compared to the Minimata incident in the 1950s.

    I would also like to know if you yourself would eat dolphin meat and if you would feed it to your children.

  • It’s really sad, and indicative of deep psychological misfirings, that small groups of Japanese cling so much to national ego that they cry “anti-Japanese” about this film. As if this handful of fishermen, bent on keeping their sickening slaughter for profit secret, in any way represent Japanese.

    As the film points out, the “Japanese tradition” claim is nothing but a bold-faced lie. Ask Japanese about the “tradition” of slaughtering and eating dolphins (let alone turning a cove bright red with blood).

    It’s cowardly of the fishmermen and town to conduct this slaughter at a national park. If it’s a national park, as opposed to a privately owned slaughterhouse, doesn’t the nation have a right to know what’s happening? And it’s cowardly of nationalists to scream and cry in protest to shut theaters down for being “anti-Japanese”.


    Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the message behind the film, nobody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot see. Let the people see it and listen to all the arguments in an open forum and then let them decide for themselves. This is fundamental to any democracy. Disagree with the film all you want but do not think you or any other person would have the devine right to deny others the right to decide for themselves whether they want to a) see the film and b) decide for themselves whether to support it or not.
    Let the people see it and judge for themselves!

  • I doubt the movie theaters would cancel the screening only because they are afraid of some uyoku with black vans. I wonder who is the kuromaku here, actually.

  • haildamage says:


    the dolphin slaughter is taking place in a national park, which is public property. of course the inside of a slaughterhouse is private property, and this is a big difference.

    in fact, it was illegal to bar the film makers entry to the national park since it is public property in the first place, but the police did not respect the law.

  • In all honesty, TAMAGAWABOAT’s post presents a very typical point of view, which I’ve seen in other places online – forums, mostly, and also a few blogs – as well. If you criticize anything that Japan does, you automatically criticize Japan, and that’s just blasphemy! You can be labeled as anything from “racist” to “hate-monger” and everything in-between. It’s the same ‘logic’ by which certain elements are up in arms about activists like our Debito. After all, how dare we think we can change the tried-and-true Japanese way? *snort*

    I think the title of his blog, “as subjectively as possible”, pretty much sums up his attitude. I also laughed at his little “DON’T F*** WITH THE JAPANESE!!” graphic, too. How cute.

  • (You don’t have to put this post up, Debito, but I wonder if Tamagawaboat isn’t just a troll. I suppose having a different opinion is good for debate’s sake, though. I often see a similar kind of troll on another web site and I’m a bit suspicious.)

    — I have that feeling too. Send us the link to the other website. Thanks.

  • “And more, “The Cove” violates human rights of the Japanese

    fishermen who engage in slaughtering dolphins in Taiji Wakayama Japan.”

    But the documentary is about the rights of the dolphins, so how did it get twisted into the rights of the fishermen? When he mentions that the world has a racist view towards Japan, I must say Japan hasnt done much to help improve that image throughout history. We were just having a discussion about Okinawa and how the Sastuma clan raped the island. The imperial army forced all its subjects to recongnize the emperor as the supreme leader of asia and speak Japanese. Japan beheaded many of its POWs as well and forced others to work as slaves. We can still find many human rights violations in Japan, which is at least 30 years or more behind other countries socially. So forgive us for not having sympathy for the fisherman.

    — And that’s the last “tit for tat” post I’ll allow through.

  • Believe it or not, it is possible to support “The Cove”, yet oppose Bethune’s brand of self-aggrandizing vigilante activism. Especially contemptible is is Sea Shepherd’s modus operandi of provoking and harrassing Japanese whalers by various means, including physical assault with bottles of acid, only to whine and complain when the whalers retaliate. If you pick a fight, don’t go running to mommy when the other guy hits back.

    Bethune put himself in this position through his own actions. And if the Japanese legal system lives up to its reputation, he will get a nice little chunk of time in a Japanese prison to think about whether playing adventure hero was worth it.

  • I felt the film was not completely honest about dolphin slaughter. It was an anti-japan propaganda attack in that it did single out Japan. It does play on the race card in that it does
    not mention dolphin slaughters in Europe or other places.
    If you want footage of massive dolphin slaughters you can get it easily in places like Denmark where its
    a carnival like atmosphere. You dont have to sneak around in Japan if the movie was was only about dolphins. I was dissappointed in the Cove as this was obvious to me by the time I finished the movie.
    I rest my case.

    That said it should still be allowed to show and people can protest if they choose to.

    They have armed private security guards at large cattle slaughter houses in Texas(IBP).
    This type of business does not want media attention anywhere.

  • Shouldn’t the leaders of such protests be arrested on 営業妨害charges?I mean, the distributor and the movie theaters paid to have the screening rights, and they are expecting profits,from purely business point of view.
    If someone went into a sushi bar and started kicking and throwing all maguro sushi to protest, or some organizes a protest in front of Tsukiji, wouldn’t he or she be charged (among everything else) with obstruction of business?

  • I really don’t care about dolphins, and I don’t really think I should pretend that I do more than I do…

    …but isn’t Ric O’Barry’s point one of the keys here?

    Whatever the merits or not of what the movie is really exposing and how and why, isn’t it also a major point that a small group of extremists shouldn’t be allowed to intimidate / dictate what others should see?

    These nationalist asshole hate groups only ever seem to focus on taking rights away from people that don’t share their incredibly narrow world view. And that includes Japanese people. They’d make perfect kempeitai.

  • Situations like this remind me of “What’s the matter with Kansas?” How is it in anyone outside of the whale hunting-government complex’s self-interest to eat mercury-tainted whale meat? [unsubstantiated assertion deleted]

  • Valentina says:

    I know that probably most people won’t agree with what I’m going to say, but I really don’t mean to be polemic or to attack anyone…just giving my opinion.
    As far as I know, most dolphin species are not endangered, so I don’t understand why they should get a special treatment compared to other animals. Also, for me there’s not much difference between hunting and salughtering: all over the world millions of pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits etc are born and bred just to be killed and eaten by humans, and they have 0 chances of escaping slaughtering. I think this is just as cruel as hunting, though most people don’t seem to have any problems with it. I’m not convinced by the argument that dolphins are particularly intelligent, too: in my opinion the fact that, for example, a hen is less intelligent than a dolphin doesn’t make its life worth. In short, what I think is that if you actually care about animals, you shouldn’t make any difference or special treatment for some of them. I really don’t like this “selective animalism” (i.e. you don’t want a certain species to be killed and eaten because you like it/find it cute/find it more interesting, but don’t care much about other species suffering the same fate). The only exceptions I make are for endagered animals, which I think should be protected in any way.
    So, about this specifical issue, the real problem for me is not the dolphin hunt itself, which I don’t see as a problem unless the dolphins were endangered. I think that the real problems are:
    1. the fact those fishermen were hunting dolphins in a national park
    2. the presence of mercury in the dolphin’s meat.
    People must have the possibility to watch this movie. They have the right to be informed about what happens in their country and about the risks for the health invoved in eating dolphin meat. Then everyone will have their own opinion, but at least people can be aware of a few facts and make more conscious choices. And of course, banning the screening of a film is not something that should happen in a State that defines itself democratic.

    — Point taken. So from now on in this entry, let’s focus on the issue of limiting public access to this movie, not on the rights and wrongs of fishermen vs. dolphins vs slaughterhouses etc.. Comments taking the latter tacks will not be approved.

  • Getting back on point, this reminds me of the 2chan attack on that newspaper that used to translate gossip from the nihongo scandal-sheets. And the hotel that cancelled a union meeting. I find it disappointing that the first line of response here to fascist threats is generally to back down and/or punish the victim. OK, I used to find it disappointing, now I’m used to it. In fact when the plan to screen the film was made public, I fully expected that exactly this would happen.

  • And to get back on track with a quote about limiting public access to the movie, here is a short quote from the above link:
    “If the work, which is about Japan, cannot be shown in Japan, it only underlines the weakness of the freedom of speech in Japan”.
    Very succinct and says it all: Japan is not a democracy.

    Japanese pundits protest dolphin film cancellation
    By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 9, 2010 6:12 am ET

    TOKYO – Fifty-five journalists, academics and film directors in Japan condemned intimidation and threats that led movie theaters to cancel screenings of “The Cove,” a documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese village.

    Three movie theaters that had been scheduled to show the film later this month canceled their plans last week after receiving a flood of angry phone calls and warnings of protests by nationalists, who have been screaming slogans outside the Tokyo office of the Japanese distributor in recent months.

    Protesters criticize the film as a betrayal of Japanese pride.

    The American movie, this year’s winner of the Academy Award for best documentary, features undercover footage of the dolphin hunt in a Japanese village and documents efforts by Ric O’Barry, a former trainer for the “Flipper” TV series, to stop the slaughter of dolphins for food.

    Distributor Unplugged said it was negotiating with dozens of theaters throughout Japan, but no showing has been scheduled so far. The film was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, but has not yet opened to the Japanese public.

    Movie director Hirokazu Koreeda, journalist Soichiro Tahara and feminist Chizuko Ueno were among the 55 public personalities who signed a protest letter in which they said they were alarmed by the intimidation tactics used to pressure theaters to cancel the planned screenings.

    “This is a film that has been widely shown abroad. If the work, which is about Japan, cannot be shown in Japan, it only underlines the weakness of the freedom of speech in Japan,” they said in the statement sent to media and Unplugged on Monday.

    They said that opinion may be divided on the film, but that meant it should be shown to a wide audience to encourage debate.

    Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. But some believe killing dolphins and whales is part of traditional culinary culture and resent the interference of outsiders focused on species protection.

    “The work intentionally distorts Japanese people’s food culture, and showing this will hurt many people’s feelings,” one of the protesting nationalist groups, Shuken Kaifuku wo Mezasu Kai, said in a recent statement.

    “It’s true Japanese may not feel happy about the way they are depicted in this film,” Tahara said earlier this week in an interview broadcast on the Internet. “But blocking it is not right.”

    O’Barry blamed “a small minority of extremists” for the theater cancellations.

    “The Japanese people have a right to see it if they want to,” he said.

  • thought you might find this interesting.

    “A SUNDAY TIMES investigation has exposed Japan for bribing small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support for the mass slaughter of whales.

    The undercover investigation found officials from six countries were willing to consider selling their votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

    The revelations come as Japan seeks to break the 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling. An IWC meeting that will decide the fate of thousands of whales, including endangered species, begins this month in Morocco.

    Japan denies buying the votes of IWC members. However, The Sunday Times filmed officials from pro-whaling governments admitting:…”
    article continues here

  • Thank goodness for Nico Nico Douga. Being a regular of the site myself, I know how much traffic the place gets. I’m sure those 2000 “seats” will be filled up. I’m glad they are doing this.

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