|Cranes over Umekoji Park- courtesy of Deep Kyoto|
Well, Orix Corporation (a Tokyo and Osaka-based financial company) is working behind closed doors with Kyoto City officials to impose an aquarium featuring a dolphin show on Umekoji Park. This sanctuary in the center of the urban city was dedicated to the 1200th anniversary of Kyoto's ascension as the imperial capital of Japan and is meant to be a park to "last for hundreds years." City officials seem to have other plans as it distribute the public land at discounted prices to private corporation, ignoring the overwhelming voices of opposition from local residents.
This Friday evening at Urban Guild in Kyoto (Voices for Umekoji event), Kyotoites and their supporters will gather in opposition to the aquarium plans for a night of song, dance, and discussion (in English and Japanese). The home of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, Kyoto is an inland city with no links to the sea. It is an unsuitable location for an aquarium that will add an estimated 5400 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere per year while destroying one of the few carbon sinks and outdoor recreational areas in the city.
Visitors are attracted to Kyoto by its pristine temples, it's well-preserved architecture, and it's strong sense of tradition. People will not make the trip to Kyoto just to see dolphins. Tax-payer yen would be best spent on restoring the city and beautifying its parks, especially since Kyoto has the smallest amount of green space per capita for a city of its size. What more, Japan has more aquariums than any country in the world, measured in pure amount and per capita. Why build another one in a city with no marine links whatsoever?
Even worse, the exploitation of wild animals for entertainment purposes only serves to reinforce existing forms of domination over nature. The work of the Dolphin Dance Project to raise awareness of the beautiful lifestyle of wild dolphins and the man-made threats to them, including their unjust capture for aquariums, cannot be more relevant at this time. Michael Lambe of Deep Kyoto reports:
Watching this video, what’s really amazing to me is the incredibly trusting nature of these dolphins. I wonder why they don’t consider the boat and the humans in it as potential predators? There’s something amazing and quite moving about this trust, but it is also quite sad when you think how easily and how often this trust is betrayed.
One of the many arguments against the building of the Kyoto Aquarium is the issue of cruelty to animals, specifically dolphins. The building of a dolphinarium for “edutainment purposes” is a central aspect of the building plans and having seen those plans I can tell you that the space allotted for the dolphins is clearly both constrictive and cruel. Research has proven that dolphins are both intelligent animals capable of self-awareness, abstract thought, and creativity. They are also emotional animals that exhibit profound familial and social bonds. Some scientists have even suggested they should be considered “non-human persons” and afforded rights equivalent to our own. In other words, we ought to treat them better than taking them out of their natural habitat, confining them in pools and using them purely for our own entertainment.
Many of the postcards designed by Kawagoe Yoshio-san for the anti-aquarium campaign, depict dolphins, and frequently with a message that reads “君とは海で会いたい!” – I want to meet you in the ocean! This message that we should encounter wild creatures such as dolphins in their natural habitat and not in an entirely artificial environment is a strong one. So it seemed serendipitous that Chisa Hidaka the director of the Dolphin Dance Project should offer to show her short movie “Together” at the “Voices for Umekoji” event on Friday. The message is essentially the same.
Dancer and choreographer, Chisa Hidaka, initiated the Dolphin Dance Project in order to promote inter-species understanding. Having encountered dolphins in the wild, Chisa became intrigued by the similarities between dolphin play and human dance and began a project of filming inter-species improvised dance as a means of profound communication. The debut film, ‘Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins,’ won ‘Best Experimental Film’ at its world premiere at the Big Apple Film Festival. This film shows a human dancer and a wild spinner dolphin dancing playfully together beneath the waves. Though short, it is beautiful to watch and leaves you wanting more. Happily ‘Together’ is but a pilot for a longer film to be shot in 2011. ‘Sharing the Dance’ will be a full-length documentary about the making of a group dance with several human dancers and a pod of wild dolphins.
We are very proud to be showing the movie “Together” at our event on Friday!