Operation Musashi
Q and A with Captain Paul Watson

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

Why did you choose the name Operation Musashi?

Captain Paul Watson: There has been a perception, thanks to some Japanese media, the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research, and some non-governmental organizations that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an anti-Japanese organization. Nothing can be further from the truth. Both the Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Kim McCoy and Sea Shepherd Development Director Alex Earl have lived in Japan. I've been to Japan myself many times and I was once a student of Kendo and I'm well read in Japanese history and literature. In truth we very much respect Japanese culture and that is why I thought it appropriate to name this campaign in honour of one of the greatest samurai legends in Japan - Miyamoto Musashi.

Who was Miyamoto Musashi?

Captain Paul Watson: He was a ronin warrior, born around 1584. He fought at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 at the age of 16 or 17. He was a self taught master of the sword and became one of the greatest military strategists in history. Most importantly he believed that the purpose of a sword was not to kill or injure but to maintain the integrity of the Emperor, to subdue devils and to drive out evil. He carried the sword to maintain integrity and not for personal profit or power. He also wrote of the twofold way of pen and sword, in other words that the pen was equal to the sword and confrontation when necessary, must be accompanied by education and communication.

What does a swordsman have to do with Conservation?

Captain Paul Watson: When Musashi laboured to the fields to understand the way of farmers he observed that his sweat attracted flies. He took the view that the flies were only going about their business just as he was going about his. He regarded them as fellow creatures. That was a biocentric observation.

Musashi believed that to be a warrior he also had to be a poet, an artist, a farmer, a philosopher and most importantly he had to understand the laws of nature. He was in fact a deep ecologist.

What impact did Miyamoto Musashi have on your life?

Captain Paul Watson: I discovered Musashi when I was a student of Kendo, the Japanese art of sword fighting. His book, The Book of Five Rings had a profound impact on me and I used it as one of three books as the basis for writing my book Earthforce! The other two sources were The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Laws of Media by Marshall McLuhan.

Musashi taught that the Way of the Warrior was the resolute acceptance of death. In other words he taught how to deal with fear and once fear is conquered, all things are possible. I have to say that was and continues to be the most important lesson that I ever received. Musashi taught me the art of fearlessness.

Musashi is depicted in a famous painting by Kuniyoshi  Utagawa slaying a whale. Isn't that a problem for Sea Shepherd's image?

Captain Paul Watson: Only if it were true! Kuniyoshi  painted that whale allegedly being slain by Musashi in the mid-19th Century, some 350 years after Musashi was born. There is no historical evidence that Musashi killed a whale and like many legendary figures, stories have been embellished and fabricated with a real life hero fitted into the fiction. It's no different than St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland (he didn't) or St. George slaying a dragon. (he didn't). Musashi is to Japan what Robin Hood is to England, a legendary figure, and an outlaw with numerous contradicting stories about him. My studies of the man have convinced me that he was someone with a great respect for nature and the only way he would use his sword on a whale were if the whale was beached and dying and he needed to alleviate the suffering of the animal.

Do you think that using Musashi's name will anger some Japanese people?

Captain Paul Watson: It may be, but my intention is not to anger anyone. Only those who do not understand Musashi would be angered by us doing him honour as a sensei. My intention is to have Musashi inspire my crew to pursue a strategy to protect whales from illegal whaling. It is not the Japanese people who are killing these whales. It is a small group of special interest people profiting from illegal whaling and dishonouring the nation of Japan by doing so. Musashi was a samurai and the definition of samurai means to serve. We in Sea Shepherd serve our clients, the whales and we do it with a 100% resolve to protect and defend them. These are samurai values and very much in accordance with the traditional samurai values of Japan.

There are some who say that whaling is a Japanese tradition?

Captain Paul Watson: It is not. Modern pelagic whaling was initiated by General Douglas MacArthur in 1946. He established the modern whaling fleet. There was some local whaling in a few scattered villages in Japan going back a few centuries but whaling in itself was never part of the tradition of the average Japanese citizen. This is like saying because people in Higgins, Pennsylvania, where they shoot captive pigeons for fun represents a traditional American value, or because people are into cock-fighting in a few rural villages in America, this represents the tradition of the United States. The Japanese are a civilized people and the slaughter of whales and dolphins is a barbaric practice and because a few Japanese people do it, that does not represent the attitude of the nation.

Is the fight to protect the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary dangerous?

Captain Paul Watson: Yes it is for us, and it is for the whales, but not so much for the Japanese whalers. The whales are dying in horrific agony. We have been shot at and concussion grenades have been thrown at us and our lives have been threatened. The whalers know that we have not, cannot, and will not injure them. We must protect the whales without inflicting injury against an enemy that has no hesitation about killing and little respect for life. But this is something that Miyamoto Musashi would understand. He would understand our dilemma and he would see, as we are seeing, that strategies can be implemented to protect life without taking life, to avoid injury without inflicting injury. What we are doing is very much in accordance with traditional Japanese samurai values. We are challenging the whalers in the most remote and hostile waters on the planet and we are confronting them face to face, we are taking their blows and deflecting them and we are striking back with the pen and only using the flat edge of the sword, something that Musashi was very adept at doing.

Will Sea Shepherd win?

Captain Paul Watson: Yes we have already won or I should more accurately say, the whales who we serve have already won. Over 500 of them won their lives last season.

Musashi understood that a battle must be won before it begins. The whalers have already lost and they will retreat. They are stubborn like the cowardly students of the Yoshioka school that Musashi defeated. They were a nuisance for some time but they had already lost before Musashi struck the first blow. The same holds true for the whalers. They fight without honour and they are criminals whose activities run contrary to nature. It is only a matter of time until they retreat from the Southern Ocean forever. For our part, we have won because we knew before we began that we would never retreat or surrender. No matter what obstacles they throw up before us we will brush them aside and we will stay focused. We entered this campaign with the resolve to defend the whales and to drive their killers from the Sanctuary and that is what we are doing and that is what we will accomplish. Yoda would say, "the force is with us." Musashi would say that the heavens smile upon us but one thing my heart tells me without hesitation or doubt is that we will achieve peace for the whales and we will silence the harpoons in the Southern Oceans.