Frustrations Rise in Taiji: a Foiled Kidnapping Attempt on a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian
Report by Rosie Kunneke Cove Guardian Campaign Leader
On November 9th, 2011, I was at the Dolphin Base resort monitoring “Jiyu,” the depressed and neurotic dolphin the Cove Guardian have been monitoring in captivity. We were preoccupied with preparing a call to action to get people involved to try and help this specific dolphin.
Later in the afternoon, one of the dolphin killers arrived, dressed in a wetsuit which could only mean that the plan was to kill this dolphin. After noticing me sitting on the pier, the dolphin killer made a phone call and left. About half an hour later, after all the trainers have left, I saw two men walk over in my direction and stop behind me. I greeted them, but they ignored me.
Upon seeing three fishermen fishing down on the lower pier, they left. Something about their aggressive behavior did not feel right to me. About ten minutes later, I decided to leave the resort seeing that it was getting dark. Since, I am not allowed to park in the hotel’s parking area, I usually park up the road, some distance away. As I came around the corner of the hotel on my way to the car, I noticed the same two individuals standing at a black SUV vehicle. When they saw me, both of them came running towards me. I turned to them, which made them stop. They were blocking me from both sides. I asked them what their problem is but they just said something to each other in Japanese and ignored me. I lifted up my monopod to make them aware that I will defend myself. I also said that I am phoning the police. I tried again to walk further and they kept on coming closer aggressively and blocking my way to my vehicle.
At this stage I decided to go back around the corner to the hotel’s entrance. I saw one of them take out his phone and start dialing a number. He was also looking for something on the ground, I assumed to perhaps throw at me. I entered the reception area of the hotel and asked the person at reception to please phone the police and informed them that two men were showing signs of aggression towards me. Two Wakayama Prefecture policemen showed up in about five minutes.
I took them around the corner to show them where it happened, but by then, the two men had disappeared in their vehicle. It was at this stage that I noticed the two girls from Save Japan Dolphins (SJD) walking up the road. They saw on my Facebook communication to them that I was planning to stay at the resort till dark and decided to come and check up on me. A few minutes later, the uniformed safety police also arrived. These policemen can speak English and they questioned me about the incident. They looked genuinely concerned about what had happened and they requested that I must go to the police station so that they can take down details of the incident of the two men involved.
The senior police officer instructed one of the uniformed policemen to accompany me in my vehicle. On the way there, the policeman accompanying me asked for a detailed description of their clothes, hair, facial features, and their vehicle. Once at the police station, I was taken into a small room and all three uniformed safety police questioned me about what happened. They indicated to me that due to a program on mainstream Japanese television, there was a lot of attention on the Taiji issue including from the nationalists and the yakuza.
The police said that if they had to guess as to the intention of these men, it would be that they were planning to kidnap me. They warned us that this area is not as safe as we think and that some of these groups are capable of murder. These policemen were concerned about our safety and they warned us not to be alone when it is dark outside. After recording the details of the incident, they also gave the same warning to the girls from SJD who had waited for me in the reception area of the police station.
While this incident was a scary and unusual experience even for Taiji, the Cove Guardian campaign will continue as we are making a difference in the number of dolphin lives saved which is why Sea Shepherd is here in the first place.