Taiji. What more can one say? The mere mention of the town conjures up images of blood red sea water and hills reverberating with the screams of dying dolphins as they are mercilessly butchered at the hand of callous human animals.
For me it holds a whole different meaning. Taiji was a major turning point in my life. After spending time in this soul sucking little coastal town, life was never the same. And it never would be. It was both the worst and best journey of my life.
As a child I was entranced with the samurai and their stories of bravery and courage. And as I grew older the world of the flower and the willow captivated me. It was so far from anything I understood or knew and I day dreamt for hours on end of falling cherry blossom petals and feudal palaces of old. That world was untouchable and not in a billion years would I ever have thought that I would find myself travelling to this far away world, breathless and giddy with disbelief.
But that is exactly what happened to me. Before I departed for the distant shores of Japan to fight against the mass slaughter of one of the most popular species on this planet, the iconic dolphin, I point blankly, stubbornly refused to watch the Oscar winning documentary The Cove. I knew that, on a psychological level, I would never survive the brutality of what the film was to depict. Quietly, deep down, I knew that I didn’t have to watch a film to know that something was pulling me towards the land of the rising sun. So imagine for a moment, if you will, the faces of my friends and loved ones when I announced I was going to hop on a plane to witness the slaughter of dolphins first hand. I am prone to mad dash ideas and whimsy, but even this was too much for most of them to comprehend. Not that I could blame them. It was too much for *me* to comprehend! It wasn’t until I had to say goodbye to my husband at the boarding gate that it sunk in. I clearly remember my heart beating like a bongo drum on speed and I clearly remember not knowing whether to cry because I didn’t want to be without the love of my life or whether I wanted to laugh stupidly at the sheer surrealism of the situation. The reality was that there was no turning back. I was Taiji bound.
I had the fullest intention of reporting from the field each and every day. I owed it to my donours. It was easier said than done. The hours were long and you’re constantly on the go. By the time you get a moment to put your thoughts together, you’re tired and brow beaten and you were ready to shut everything out , go to bed and pretended that what you went through that day wasn’t real.
When I got back to my home country of South Africa I put pen to paper and I wrote about my journey in minute detail.
That is until it was time to recount my first slaughter. My fingers hovered tentatively over the keyboard and all I could think about was “I can’t do this.”. So I didn’t. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t put myself back on the shore of that little beach. I jealously guarded my emotions. They were mine and I wasn’t ready to bear my guilt and pain. After Taiji, that was all that I had left.
Yet here I am again, a year later, wanting nothing more than to be standing on that very shore of that very beach. From the moment I set foot on the plane back home to the very moment you read this, not a single day has gone by that I am not wholly consumed and obsessed by this Little Town of Horror. Not a single day – literally. Taiji steals your soul. You simply have to go back and look for it until you’ve found it.
The problem with Taiji is that your soul has most likely disappeared with the lost souls of the dearly departed dolphins you go to protect. You’re unlikely to ever find it again. And that is okay. As long as you can go back time and time again to try and find it, regardless. Or perhaps, your soul has been captured never to be released again and the only way to feel whole is to try and be as close to it as you can.
In 2011, through the kindness of family, friends and strangers, I managed to fulfill my quest to become a Cove Guardian. Since my return to South Africa from Japan, not a single day has gone by in which I haven’t been consumed by the desire to return to Taiji. This is what role you can play in it.
I need to make sure you know that my solicitation is not affiliated with the nonprofit organization Sea Shepherd and so if you do provide funds to me it is not tax-deductible. Your contribution to my journey would be a personal gift and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness, generosity and support!