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WDC in Japan – Part 2: Digital dolphins

Welcome to the second chapter of my incredible journey to build alliances in Japan. As promised in my last blog, I am going to tell you about my experience at a magical exhibition. This opportunity came about through an invitation from one of the many inspiring individuals I had the privilege of meeting in Japan - Haruyoshi Kawai. So, let me whisk you away to this extraordinary exhibition.

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Haruyoshi Kawai, celebrated for his digital illustrations, had a surprise in store that defied all my expectations. Stepping into the exhibition hall, I found myself immersed in the heart of the Amazon River. The walls of the room stretched magnificently across 21 metres and transported me to an underwater world. Every detail was carefully curated and gentle lighting and subtle background noise gave a sense of the river’s natural ambience. The exhibit came to life as beautifully animated, lifelike dolphins, manatees and fish appeared before me. Among them, the star of the exhibition - the Amazon River dolphin.

There were also two special presentations on that day. The first centred on Amazon River dolphins and their ecosystem. The dolphin’s presence captivated the audience while the presenter shared facts about these unique dolphins, their habitat, and the threats they face. The audience became an integral part of the experience – they volunteered to measure the body length of the Amazon River dolphin and compared it with that of a bottlenose dolphin. Haruyoshi explained to me that he wanted to allow people to experience whales and dolphins, learn more about them and understand why they need to be protected and free. He said it was important to him to also address environmental problems and encourage the audience to make more conscious choices like reducing their use of single-use plastic products to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the homes of whales and dolphins.


The second presentation took us to a different habitat – the ocean. This segment was dedicated to enriching our understanding of various whale and dolphin species. Each of these species was celebrated for their distinct characteristics and we learnt about where they live around the world. When the show began, the entire projection screen was deep ocean blue. I heard increasingly loud clicking sounds and whirring and almost fell off my stool when suddenly a group of life-size sperm whales swam into the picture. It was magical and the audience was visibly blown away! The surprises didn’t stop with the sperm whale family, there were several other species to marvel at such as the majestic humpback whale, iconic orca and the incredible right whale. It felt as though I was looking through a window into the ocean.

Exhibitions like this serve as a poignant reminder that there’s no need to confine whales and dolphins to tanks to learn about them and the places they live. Observing these intelligent beings in their natural environment - whether that’s responsibly watching in the wild or through virtual experiences - offers a cruelty-free, respectful and sustainable approach to witnessing their natural behaviour. Rapidly advancing technology allows us to see species from all over the world at close range no matter how remotely they live, and there are no limits and no suffering. Facilities like this only need a fraction of the resources compared to zoos or aquariums.

More than 3,000 whales and dolphins around the world are confined in small, low-stimulus tanks for entertainment purposes. In Japan alone, several hundred whales and dolphins have been taken from their homes and families in brutal ‘drive hunts’ in the past five years alone to be sold to the entertainment industry. An estimated 280 of them are currently in small underwater enclosures in Taiji (home of the infamous killing cove) awaiting sale. They will never see their families or the open sea again and will probably spend the rest of their lives entertaining humans in China or the Middle East.

This is why we at WDC are campaigning for an end to the captivity of whales and dolphins as well as the annual drive hunts in Japan. We are glad that there are people like Haruyoshi Kawai to show the people of Japan that it is possible to experience them up close without having to take away their freedom and what it means to be a whale or dolphin.

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