Operation Musashi - Designed for Controversy

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

I knew that when I chose the name for our next Antarctic campaign to defend the whales that it would be controversial. That was the point.

Some critics have suggested that I have foolishly named our next campaign to Antarctica as Operation Musashi without understanding who Musashi was.

They are wrong!

Apparently some people seem to think that I was ignorant of the legend of Miyamoto Musashi, and specifically of the famous woodcut depicting him slaying a whale with his sword.

Why would I choose a whale killer as a symbol for our campaign to protect and defend whales?

I will tell you why.

First I have read the biographies of Miyamoto Musashi and I used his Book of Five Rings, along with Sun Tzu's Art of War in writing my book Earthforce! - The Earth Warrior's Guide to Strategy.

Musashi may very well be depicted as slaying a whale with his sword but there is no evidence that he actually slew a whale. Musashi is the greatest legendary warrior in Japanese history and legends have a tendency to be embellished. St. Patrick did not in actual fact drive the snakes out of Ireland - they were never there to be driven out. St. George did not literally slay a dragon, and William Wallace despite Mel Gibson's efforts never met either Robert the Bruce or the Princess of Wales.

The woodcut of Musashi killing a whale was created by the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) over four hundred years after the death of the legendary Samurai warrior.
The work was done sometime between 1847 and 1852.

This is quite interesting because it coincides with the publication of Moby Dick by Herman Melville in 1851.

In the woodcut, Musashi appears like Ahab.

I have always felt that Ahab was the most sympathetic character in Moby Dick because he was the one man who considered the whale to be equal to man and thus his rage was directed at Moby Dick motivated by desire for revenge at the loss of his leg. Starbuck by contrast dismisses Moby Dick as a dumb beast. Ahab knew better.
That was why in 1976, the Greenpeace campaign to protect whales was named Project Ahab by Robert Hunter. I sailed on that voyage as 1st Officer and Hunter often referred to us as Ahab's Children. Hunter understood that we had a duty to reverse the bad karma of our ancestors for killing whales by saving them in the present.

But more interesting yet is the fact that Moby Dick was based on the legend of Mocha Dick, a real whale who lived in the early part of the 19th Century and who had slain numerous whalers. His name was feared throughout the Pacific Ocean and the stories of this great warrior whale had indeed reached Japan through the trade routes with the Dutch.

It would be reasonable to assume that a Japanese artist like Kuniyoshi would have resurrected Musashi the hero to subdue this new "monster." Legends are like modern comic book heroes and heroes are often used in a revisionist manner to entertain and to dramatize current events.

Whaling was not a part of Musashi's reality while he lived and I highly doubt that he ever ate whale meat because he was a vegetarian.

Musashi was a man of simple tastes. He was not an eater of meat. He grew his own food and writes of his efforts to do so claiming that the challenges of farming required the discipline of a warrior.

Could Musashi have slain a whale with his sword? Not likely in a culture and a time where few were inclined nor permitted by law to venture onto the sea. Could he have jumped upon a swimming whale and stabbed it repeatedly with his sword? Again not likely and why would he have done so?

If Musashi did slay a whale then he would have done so out of compassion and such a killing would have been a mercy slaying of a beached and dying whale. From what I know of Musashi, he would have indeed allowed his sword to be used to relieve suffering.

Musashi did not kill thoughtlessly nor needlessly and he did not participate in the destruction of nature's beauty.  And the one thing that Musashi distained more than anything else were the politicians and the bureaucrats of his day.

It must be remembered that Miyamoto Musashi was an outlaw, the Robin Hood and the Jesse James of his era and his country.

As an Outlaw his approach was that of a pirate and as a man who had no use for materialism, he was a pirate warrior for truth and self awareness and his enemy was - the system. He always chose the underdog and notably he fought on the losing side - he opposed the Tokugawa dynasty. He was no lap dog to the Shogun. He was his own man.

I choose Musashi because of his specific strategy of the two-fold way of pen and sword. In other words, victory in the campaign to end Japanese whaling can be found in a combination of high seas dramatic confrontations and media exposure of these confrontations that expose the crimes of the whalers to the international public.

I also choose Musashi because he is someone most Japanese are familiar with. He is also the most anti-Japanese, Japanese hero in Japanese history. Musashi thought for himself and was an individual non-conformist in a culture of rigid conformity. He was a seeker of truth and knowledge. He rejected the position of sword-master to the Shogun of Japan because he was not a servant to any man but was a servant to both nature and to the discipline of his arts.

In choosing Musashi I selected a name that would reflect respect upon Japanese culture and thus would expose the contradictions of the bureaucrats who seek to use nationalism to justify their illegal international crimes.

Musashi represented the true characteristics of the Japanese people when not controlled by government and bureaucracy - the virtues of compassion, the search for truth, and respect for nature.

I believe that Musashi would be on our ship if he were here today just as "Yoko" was on our last campaign.

"Yoko" had come from Japan because she was repulsed by the horror of the Japanese slaughter of the whales and the dolphins. It took great courage to join our crew in our campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet. It took courage for her to speak to the Japanese media about the truth of whaling - she was a true daughter of the spirit of Musashi.

She masked her identity to protect her family from harassment in Japan and we called her Yoko Musashi.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not anti-Japanese. We share some very similar values with the tradition of the Samurai.

Samurai means to serve. We, the warriors of Sea Shepherd serve the cause of the whales. The way of the Samurai is the resolute acceptance of death and in this there is no doubt that Sea Shepherd campaigns have seen crewmembers take awesome risks to protect marine species.

My crew demonstrates the courage of the Samurai and they respect the fact that our duty is to serve our clients first and foremost and we serve the whales in this campaign.

And in this approach we are students of Miyamoto Musashi and I believe that Musashi's strategies are part of the key towards attaining victory over the enemies of the whale, the enemies of nature and the enemies of our future.
As the legendary Lakota warrior Crazy Horse would have said, "hoka hey."

Operation Musashi will be the most aggressive and most effective campaign against illegal Japanese whaling ever and we intend to sink the Japanese fleet economically and we intend to save the lives of as many whales as we can and we intend to do it with the sword of compassion meaning we will cause no harm in our efforts to prevent harm.