Wednesday, 13 April 2011


View from my hotel window of Kamaishi

In February 2011 Marc Rowedder (Producer at RES) and Myself headed off on a three week shoot to Japan to film the third of four films for National Geographic following the Environmental Investigation Agency uncover the trade in Fin Whale meat between Iceland and Japan.

Marc Rowedder and Adam Docker

It was a grueling schedule which took in thousands of miles on road and rail from the north of Japan and all the way to the southern tip. Lot's of very early mornings filming fishermen at the crack of dawn, followed and harassed by local police and literally living out of a suitcase, hardly a day off as we stayed in eleven hotels in the twenty one days. It was an absolutely extraordinary journey.

Early morning filming the dolphin hunt

It began in the south in the coastal town of Taiji, made famous in the award winning documentary "The Cove" for their slaughter of dolphins.


As the sun rises, a flotilla of fishermen wait out in the high sea, while in the bay of Taiji other boats set the nets ready for the catch. Against the backdrop of a red sun you can hear the faint sound of the fishermen banging against metal poles in the water. There isn't long to wait as three hundred or so dolphins, distressed by what could be considered CIA style white noise, try to escape. Unfortunately they head directly towards the bay and to the awaiting nets of the fishermen.

On this morning most of them out-manouvre the fishermen and only a handful are caught. With not much of a catch on their hands, we are spared the gory and bloody slaughter and instead witness the beginnings of a sad life for these captured dolphins as they are put in holding pens in the port of Taiji and then sold off to aquariums around the world.

Marc Rowedder and myself walking along the seafront in Kamaishi.

The investigation took us north, past Fukushima, to a small town called Kamaishi. We stayed here for a few days as the EIA investigated the hunting of Dall's Porpoise's, (a member of the dolphin family), in a nearby town called Otsuchi.

I remember stopping for lunch in a roadside cafe and watching breaking news of the earthquake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand. When we left I became aware of all the Tsunami warning signs along the coastal roads.

The investigation uncovered a lot of interesting finds and the EIA were laden with lot's of factual  information on the murky side of whaling and its operations in Japan, a dying industry that is heavily subsidised by the Japanese government and by a powerful whaling lobby.

Tired, we returned back to England and a few days later the tsunami struck. Watching it destroy all the very same towns we had been staying in on the northern coast of Japan was terrifying  To say we all felt dumbstruck was an understatement.

During pre-production we were all at odds on filming dates and the preferred schedule clashed with my son's birthday which I was adamant I couldn't miss; so with a tweak here and a tweak there, the shoot was moved forward so I could return home in time for his special day. Little did we know at the time how important that decision turned out to be.

So many people and places wiped off the face of the planet. This video shows the destruction of Kamaishi, the town in the photograph at the very top of this post.

The first thing I think about are all the little children I saw running to school in their floppy yellow hats every morning, the little restaurants we ate in, all the people who touched our lives and this lovely sweet lady who worked at the petrol station in Otsuchi. I always wonder if they survived.

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