Whales and geisha girls
Whether or not whaling and eating whale meat is a genuine part of Japanese culture is one of the hottest points of debate between a pro-whaling camp and an anti-whaling camp. The former claims that whaling and whale-eating culture has existed in Japan since the ancient time and is, therefore, a part of Japanese culture.
On the other hand, the anti-whaling camp asserts that Japan’s cultural claim is a fraud, as whale meat consumption is not a nationwide practice and there are a lot of Japanese who have never eaten the meat. Pointing to whaling, they insist, specifically referring to the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Antarctic, that the pelagic whaling with big ships and sophisticated equipments is a modern practice and not at all traditional.
The Australian government’s ‘East Timor’ asylum seeker solution is dying a death of a thousand cuts. It is a slow and painful process and unedifying to watch it writhe in agony. The plan has not yet been killed outright, but only an unreconstructed optimist would now suggest its fate is other than sealed.
The Bali Process ministerial forum has been one of the more damaging cuts to the ‘East Timor solution’, even if the decision by East Timor Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa not to attend was not a snub to Australia, as presented by some. Rather, East Timor has correctly pointed out that it has much more pressing priorities than Australia’s domestic concerns with asylum seekers and its half-baked plan about where to process them.
Japan March 11th 2011: For the record
In the evening of 22 March, I boarded Qantas flight 22 bound for Sydney via Hong Kong from Narita International Airport. It was a familiar flight for me which was usually a direct flight between Tokyo and Sydney. However, the flight route of the QF22 had been changed due to the disaster in Japan. Qantas wanted to make sure the safety of their crews.
Although I was unhappy and slightly anxious about the change of the route, the flight turn out to be the most memorable and, maybe, the safest flight I have ever had. 72 crew members of the Australian rescue team returning to Australia from the disaster zone were on board.
What to eat and what not to
The most frequently asked question to me while talking with my friends here in Australia about the whaling dispute is “have you eaten whale meat?’ “What it’s like?” they ask. They all look very curious about the ‘mysterious’ and ‘exotic’ meat.
I once heard a rumour that restaurants in Japan which serve whale meat had recently been flocked by Australian tourists. Don’t worry. It is just a rumour. And, no. I have not made a thorough investigation into this rumour as yet. But Australians are adventurous, brave and open to unknown cultures. Then, why not?
Would I be able to stand in the middle?
It was around midnight on 18 February 2010. I was squeezed into a CityRail train from Homebush heading for Sydney Central Station. Luckily, I secured a seat. Then, I heard a voice saying “were you at the concert?” It was from a guy who got a seat next to me. “Where could I be in the middle of the night at the Sydney Olympic Park and not being at THE concert?” was my first thought, but I replied politely, “yes, sure”. Then the answer was followed by a couple of more questions; “did you enjoy?” and “when did you get to know the band?” When did I get to know them? What a question! “I know them almost from the very beginning.”
There is increasing discussion and hand-wringing about the pros and cons of direct intervention in the carnage that is now Libya. What seems certain is that without a circuit- breaker, forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi will continue to wreak havoc on the Libyan people.
What is at stake here is the much debated ‘Responsibility To Protect’ (R2P), in which the international community agreed in 2005 that it needs to act to stop such bloodbaths before, rather than respond after, they happen.
However, as many analysts correctly point out that, a military intervention in Libya could well cohere the Libyan people not against Gaddafi but against the external forces. The invasion of Iraq was not based on the R2P principle, but it did show the folly of foreign occupation of a country that the people did not want occupied. Afghanistan is doing likewise.
Whaling has been a touchy issue between Australians and Japanese for a while. Since being appointed to my current position as an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow in May 2010, I have been asked a number of times by my Australian colleagues and friends “what’s your research topic?” And every time, I seem to need to pause and grin a bit and say “whaling”. My Aussie friends will normally then hold their breath for a second, slightly stare at me and say “agh … that’s interesting.” What is this nervousness that exists when referring to whaling in this country?
The tumultuous changes affecting the Middle-East have been widely described as representing ‘people power’ and claimed by many Western political leaders, including Australia’s, as representing aspirations for democracy. The uprisings from Morocco across to the Arabian Peninsula are, to be sure, a reflection of a popular desire for political change, but their chances of democratic outcomes is much less certain.