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Tag: Minamata Disease

The Cove - Interview with Louie Psihoyos

The Cove – Interview with Louie Psihoyos

An Oceanic Preservation Society presentation of a Jim Clark production, in association with Diamond Docs and SkyFish Films. Produced by Paula DuPre Pesmen, Fisher Stevens. Executive producer: Jim Clark. Co-producer: Olivia Ahnemann. Directed by Louie Psihoyos. Written by Mark Monroe.

With: Richard O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Simon Hutchins, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Kirk Krack, David Rastovich, Scott Baker.

This is The Cove’s second time in Japan, and each time it comes into town carrying lots of baggage. The first time through a few years ago, toting their massive amount of production equipment from the U.S. through Narita International airport the eight-person team, including ex-Flipper dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry, were here to document an annual event that largely remains hidden from the public’s eyes: the drive hunting of a couple thousand dolphins, porpoises and whales into a cove for sale and slaughter. With the help of hidden cameras, state-of-the-art equipment and military knowhow, this team, led by director Louie Psihoyos, was somehow able to outsmart a group of fisherman and the local police force in capturing on film what Psihoyos calls the “Citizen Kane of environmental documentaries.” While the former may not have been all that difficult, what is quickly proving to be an extremely arduous task for the crew now that the movie is out on the film festival circuit and has finally hit the Tokyo International Film Festival (T.I.F.F.) as an additional screening, is how to get it into theaters nationwide. Because now in his second time back Psihoyos is finding out it’s the cultural baggage that everyone seems up in arms about: Over-fishing! Culture! Whaling! Tradition! Selling Flipper! Bad Economy! Eating Flipper! Yummy!

The emotional baggage, which inevitably gets heavier and heavier as arguments escalate, results largely from ignorance. Ignorance of the Japanese population that this is going on in a sleepy little coastal town a couple hundred kilometers from Osaka. Ignorance that is fostered by a mass media fine with scuttling reports that are deemed too sensitive toward certain influential groups. Ignorance of what exactly is in the food on your plate. They say it’s bliss, but maybe that’s because more than anything else bliss is a nice fat bottom line to go with your sashimi and beer at the end of the day. So exactly what are the issues? With so many sides to choose from, HESO decided to try to talk to both the office of the mayor of the town of Taiji, Wakayama (where the film takes place), Mr. Kazutaka Sangen*, and the director of The Cove, Louie Psihoyos, in order to straighten it out for everyone.

* Mr. Sangen did not answer email requests for an interview nor did he manage to stay for the Q & A session after the screening of The Cove (yes, he and some of the fishermen did attend). Though HESO was forwarded the following press release concerning the history of Taiji:

  • It is said that without talk of whaling the history of Taiji cannot be told. It was in 1675 that Wada clan first herded whales with nets, trapping them in Taiji’s natural coves and inventing the practice of drive hunting in the process, having developed this form of whaling based on ancient fishing practices. Thus the first whaling organization was formed by the Wadas and continued in this way until 1878 when poor seamanship, storms and the wrath of the giants of the sea resulted in a disaster that killed over 100 whalers and collapsed the industry. Yet due to the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war Taiji once again became a bustling whaling port replete with whale canneries, which supplied the war effort, ensuring its survival for decades to come. It more or less continued in this way until the 1988 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling barred Taiji from continuing the practice. Despite whaling for 350 or so years, it was only comparatively recently that Taiji was formally declared a town in the mid 1920s. Due to the natural bays in both areas large-scale settlements began developing, based upon fishing as a means of subsistence, though as of 2005 the population sank to around 3500 yet continues to thrive.

Mr. Psihoyos, on the other hand, was more than willing to talk to HESO:

The Cove – Interview with Louie Psihoyos

HESO: When did you arrive in Japan?

Louie Psihoyos: Yesterday, and surprisingly not exhausted probably due more to fear of being arrested than anything, but we’re excited to be here.

HESO: Speaking of which, the ID screening for members of the press was late Sunday night and was nearly empty, the Japanese premiere was early Wednesday morning, there’s almost no information online nor are there any posters or advertisements anywhere in Roppongi. Do you feel the film is falling victim to some kind of media, for lack of a better word, conspiracy?

“Remember that one person can make a difference and a couple of passionate people together can change the world.”

LP: Well, TIFF didn’t even want me photographed near the Green Carpet. They did the minimal amount they could to get the film screened here, but that’s ok, at least we’re here. That’s amazing in itself. It’s a small start, but it’s a foothold.

HESO: As far as film festivals go, popular opinion states that they should be independent of the films they show, standing unbiasedly back and letting others judge for content, yet once you get to Japan it becomes a completely different issue. I was surprised that TIFF decided to show your documentary.

LP: You and I both. I’m still a little bit shocked.

HESO: As you said at the press conference, is it truthfully just the change in administration from former Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party to Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan or is it something else?

LP: There are other things going on, but Ben Stiller put some pressure on some friends, which helps, but it still wouldn’t have been possible with the LDP in power. They were complicit in covering these things up. People felt like the dragon had died or at least is out back for a while (laughs) and I think that’s the heart of it, what really paved the way.

HESO: About half of the Japanese people I have talked to about your film have heard something about this on the news, but not about the film exactly, yet rather in connection to Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson and Eco-terrorists using violence to dissuade fisherman from whaling. Do you agree with Watson’s methods? Would you be willing to take a softer approach in order to garner greater results?

The crew of the documentary, Left to Right; Director Louie Psihoyos, Production Manager Joe Chisholm, Associate Producer Charles Hambleton,

The crew of the documentary, Left to Right; Director Louie Psihoyos, Production Manager Joe Chisholm, Associate Producer Charles Hambleton,

LP: Listen, I know Paul Watson but I’m not a terrorist and I personally don’t subscribe to his methodology. I feel like film is the most powerful weapon in the world, more so than terrorism. You drop a bomb and you kill people, you drop a great film on them and it changes them forever. My strategy is to give a powerful piece of filmmaking to people to create a legion of activists. By activists I don’t mean sinking ships or burning down buildings, I mean people becoming active in their own lives.

HESO: So you are focusing on the human rights aspect rather than a purely animal rights issue?

LP: In the case of The Cove we are trying to make a movie that’s a microcosm of the oceans. I really feel we only have a couple decades to turn around what’s going on in the oceans. This generation coming up and maybe the next one are going to be the only generations to be able to fix this before it’s too late, before well, just break out all the champagne and drink it because…there’s not going to be anything left for anybody else. Time really is running out. This is not some Hollywood movie that I’m describing here and I’m not just talking about The Cove, but rather the environment in general. If we don’t fix what’s going on in the oceans right now, we probably lose humanity as we know it and that’s not the plot of some science fiction movie, that’s real.

HESO: So this is larger than just some proud fisherman slaughtering dolphins for some cultural reasons?

LP: When the cultural tradition argument gets in the way of human rights, your argument falls apart. If we acidify the oceans just a bit more we lose the coral reefs and anything with a carbonate structure just dissolves. Plankton creates two out of every three breaths you take; it creates more oxygen than all of the rain forests combined. So little things like acidity going up have huge impacts on future generations.

HESO: Concerning the structure of the movie, I was interested to see that as the film progressed so did the problems of mercury-tainted dolphin meat.

LP: The way the movie is designed, which is really a lot to do with Mark Monroe, is that every time you come back after exposition the stakes get bigger. It’s not just that we’re capturing dolphins for captivity, we’re taking them into the cove and killing them. We’re not just killing them, we’re feeding them to school kids. We’re not just feeding them to school kids, they’re poisoned with Mercury. It’s not just that they’re poisoned with Mercury, everything we like to eat is poisoned and we’re losing it all pretty quickly. The bad guys quickly get bigger and badder and meaner and eventually, if you’re really paying attention, it’s us, all humans, who are the ultimate bad guys because we’re polluting the animals to the point where we can’t eat them anymore. The tragic irony of this movie is the dolphin is the only wild animal in the history of the planet to save human beings lives and the only way we can save its life is to prove we have made its environment so toxic that we can’t eat them.

HESO: Despite the relatively grizzly nature of what you’re documenting, many members of the press, while shocked to see it on film, felt it could have been much more heavy handed, gorier if you will. You must have a lot of great material for a director’s cut.

About 2300 dolphins are slaughtered for food every year in this secret cove near Taiji, Japan filmed with covert cameras by the Oceanic Preservation Society.  Even though the meat is toxic the Japanese government sanctions the use of the mercury laced meat for school lunch programs.

About 2300 dolphins are slaughtered for food every year in this secret cove near Taiji, Japan filmed with covert cameras by the Oceanic Preservation Society. Even though the meat is toxic the Japanese government sanctions the use of the mercury laced meat for school lunch programs.

LP: They say you have to kill your babies when you make a movie and we had to kill a lot of babies editing this movie. With a documentary you have about ninety minutes before people start to fidget, so we had massive choices to make. We spent three and a half weeks cutting three minutes, just because those three minutes felt like ten. So doing that made the movie really tight to the frame. We go through every sequence and tried to cut out three frames, no two, or even just one frame, which I really like because it does create a tight narrative but it is painful as well. There are scenes I would have loved to have included but overall I feel it’s finished. It’s coming out on DVD soon.

HESO: Was it a conscious choice to have yourself featured in the film?

LP: No, not at all. What happened while we were doing the DVD extras, the director of Clandestine Operations Charles Hambleton, it was his idea to use the thermal camera to watch the guards and police and he said, “As long as we’re doing this, let’s hot wire this military grade camera to shoot video and we’ll shoot footage for the DVD extras.” We got aggressive about the extras. We had a great together, so we’ll do an Oceans 11 kind of thing and tack that on to the extras. When we got back safely to the U.S. Mark Monroe, Jeff Richmond and Fisher Stevens said this stuff is exciting, this should be part of the movie. I was really dragged kicking and screaming into the movie, but once I saw it I realized we had a structure that felt more like a feature film.

HESO: It is very cinematic and you are pushing the boundaries of documentary film-making farther with this new kind of action/documentary pastiche. Whereas it’s popular to make films “based upon true events” this documentary is the bizarre inverted world of that: a documentary of true events based upon the premise of an action film.

LP: I am a bit embarrassed to see myself on film, but there are so many cool characters in the film, that I still love watching the last twenty minutes of the movie. Ric going into the I.W.C., the killing scenes. I like to think that in an odd way it’s really artfully done. We spent two years working on the final two to three minutes of the killing scene. It took thirty days to get forty hours down to seventeen minutes. It took another year to get the seventeen minutes down to two or three that you could actually watch. We tried being heavy handed and we tried pulling it back as well. If you look at the structure of the film…you know, I hate horror movies. I was at a festival talking to a British horror film director who asked me what kind of films I make and as I was explaining The Cove to him I realized that it was a horror movie! (Laughs). Now I don’t want to make horror movies, but I wanted to analyze what makes a good one, so I went through and looked at scenes from classic horror films…

HESO: I did notice a Hitchkockian buildup to The Cove.

LP: Exactly. I always go back to the shower scene in Psycho. You think you’ve seen a woman get murdered but if you look at it carefully you never see the blade touch the woman. It’s not that horrible to watch. What it is is the music, the atmosphere. We did the same thing with The Cove. There is always a layer of water between the harpoon and the dolphin. The most horrifying bits, to me, are the aftermath.

HESO: We all come to movies, especially ones with this sort of controversial hype, with our own expectations and to a large extent we create what we see. We make our own movies.

Louie Psihoyos listens to a question from the media during the off-site Press Conference for the Japanese premiere of <em>The Cove</em>

Louie Psihoyos listens to a question from the media during the off-site Press Conference for the Japanese premiere of The Cove

LP: The most shocking scene to me is the sea of blood and the evergreens behind and you can hear the birds chirping. That’s not Foley, that’s real. Then you see this guy surface through the middle of the blood and squirt blood out of his snorkel, that is the most surreal scene in cinema. I forced myself to watch every second of every tape and when I saw that I thought, “Oh my god!” We were originally going to do four television programs: dolphins, whaling, tuna and overfishing, but the moment I knew we had a film was when Charles Hambleton put one of the rock cameras in front of the campfire scene. We didn’t know there was a campfire there. That was a hail mary shot or us, which is not cropped, everyone’s in there edge to edge, feeding the fire and If you notice, in the distance you can see some pilot whales spyhopping- which is when they go up to take a look around to see what’s going on above the water- and the beautiful sunrise. Wow, I worked for National Geographic over the course of eighteen years and I couldn’t have placed the camera better myself. When we set up those cameras it was dark and we had all been up for two days so the crew went home to sleep by I went across the cove, I was in full face paint, wearing all black, masking tape over anything shiny, and I climbed up a cliff then rappelled down onto a tiny ledge that was on a slant, bracing myself with my feet against a tree coming out of a rock. All my footage was shaky and none of it was usable. It was these dumb rocks that had shot the Citizen Kane of environmental films while my crew was sleeping. I was on that ledge for about fifteen hours until my crew could pick me up, because I had to stay there all day until they could pick me up at the next night. I was wetting myself and couldn’t move and it was the rocks that got the best stuff.

HESO: No one can say you’re not dedicated. In my experience talking to young Japanese people the majority of them have never eaten whale and definitely not dolphin. It’s their parents who grew up eating it for lunch in their school cafeterias when food was scarce after the war. So aside from the fact that, more than slaughtering dolphins for food, the main reason the hunts are conducted is to sell dolphins to aquariums across the globe, this doesn’t seem to be the cultural problem the fisherman say it is. If it weren’t for this loud, money-making minority would this be on the ecological radar at all? In effect is this on par with other potential ecological catastrophes such as shark-finning, reef loss and general fish stock decline?

LP: First of all, shark-finning is not sustainable, nor does it have any taste. They add flavor. It’s bad for the sharks and there’s no nourishment at all for those eating it.

HESO: The point is the Chinese say it’s considered a cultural tradition.

LP: Right, it’s similar, except in this case the dolphins are toxic. Not just a little bit, but through the roof. That’s unfortunately how I think this argument is going to be won. Animal rights gets people into the subject, it gets them emotional, gets them involved, but it’s a human rights issue and I would like to try to get them to transfer that emotion into becoming activists, and not just about this one issue but about myriad other problems which need to be solved. Remember that one person can make a difference and a couple of passionate people together can change the world.


Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a line of documentaries HESO Magazine will look at which revolve around potentially life-altering subjects. Many of these productions were funded independently and are still seeking wide release. There are many ways our readers can help promote positive movements: Visiting the website and donating a few dollars, educating yourself further on the subject, or simply telling friends and family members about alternative media and ideas. It’s simple. Don’t take my word for these things, but find out for yourself what’s going on in the world around you so you can make an informed decision about your own life and the lives of your family and community. Thanks.

Japan - Country of Beauty

Japan – Country of Beauty

Japan - Country of Beauty
The title of this article is stolen from a concurrently running Exhibition of ancient Japanese masterpieces depicting the Land of the Rising Sun in an infallible way and, what’s more, via these centuries old scrolls, kimono and woodblocks, implies that Japan is still this same country of beauty. Long having rested on their laurels stemming from remnants of a once-great culture, the time is ripe for a true exposition of what works of art this country truly offers. Don’t get me wrong: I like Japan. Mostly. Sumo is good. Hanabi is good. Mt. Fuji is good. What I don’t like is the trash that comes as a result of vast numbers of people partaking in these events. Gomi. ゴミ。Trash. The by-product of human consumption. The leftovers of human creation. And more often than not the subconscious impetus behind creation as well. Oft times we unconsciously endeavor to create merely to have something remaining, something leftover, though for what? In the name of commerce? These leftovers which fill a niche we will never fully consume nor comprehend, yet which were dredged from the giving earth regardless, are caught up in our own egotistical march-to-death-obsession: bake, process and bury, repeat.

This useless, shiny dross which will only see the likes of the trashheap, possibly processed into a landfill mass only serving to bankrupt the next megatroplis more (like the Osaka International Airport, Kobe’s Rokko and Tokyo’s Odaiba islands have so efficiently done), merely perpetuates the cycle of waste.

Yes, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe, as well as 45 of the 47 prefectures in Japan, are bankrupt, relying upon never-ending federal subsidies to continue feeding the monster: pre-existing construction plans for bigger, better, and yes, trashier community centers, national landmarks and, of course, more pachinko parlors – all in the middle of nowhere – have to be carried out. Japan is a 土建国家 (doken kokka), that is to say a “construction state”, which since the plentiful 60’s, has dedicated itself and its loyal citizens to the addiction of consumerism and all its side-effects. Here’s to national goals attained. Now what’s next?

The aftermath of the economic “glory days” are what the following generations have to deal with, for good or ill. The slag from a frighteningly powerful postwar economy, largely built on faith and approaching carrying capacity (which on an island of 12% total arability is not much) is mounting. The damage done during the renaissance 60’s, the free and easy 70’s and the gluttonous 80’s is hardly reversible, but who could know that at the time, right? We’re not mind-readers, I mean, who would know that roughly 50% of the population is allergic to Japanese cedar 杉 (sugi) causing one of the worst hay fever seasons worldwide? Or that the pine/maple/bamboo clear-cutting, cedar-planting industry has been in the red since its implementation in the 60’s? All for what, わりばし (chopsticks)? Hindsight being 20/20, one might think 3 decades of denial would be sufficient to stem the tide of an obviously bad idea, but admissions of error come hard here, so we prattle along, hoping, praying really, it all doesn’t collapse beneath us.

Japan – Country of Beauty

Collapse from beneath may not be the biggest worry. Take the Wajiro tidal-flat in Hakata Bay, a wetland of internationally recognized importance. Located at a fork in major bird thoroughfare the shallows are considered an essential nursery for fish, shell beds and are critical to the process of natural purification of the Bay’s waters. The construction of an artificial island (and implementation of Tetrapods along 60% of Fukuoka’s coastline) in 1995 increased pollution in the bay and proliferated sea laver, which unnaturally covered the Wajiro tidal-flat. The numbers of waterfowl and benthos immediately decreased and dead shellfish rose dramatically, due to red tides and asphyxiation from decomposed laver and dredging from the construction site. All this is obvious to anyone with a basic knowledge of science, or common sense and yet the monitoring committee claims the construction site has had no impact whatsoever on the environment. There is currently no system of reviewing public works here, so construction companies (The numbers in 2000 were roughly 12% of the nation being employed in construction: 15 million people in a country roughly the size of Britain) getting fat upon heavy government subsidies don’t fear any sort of reprisal, and in fact, are guaranteed continued subsidies due to the deeply corrupt system of bid-rigging employed by the Ministry of Construction.

The keyword is corruption: The un-elected Zaibatsu, 15-20 of the richest corporate men behind the LDP in Japan, not-so-gently coerce decisions in the Diet “the way they should be”, by shelling money out for projects which will generally show no return, save to keep the wheels greased. The way ex-police officers receive large commissions as relatively useless figureheads in the Pachinko Industry after retirement, thus guaranteeing the Yakuza safety and enabling the monopoly of the illegal gambling industry to thrive. The extortion racket here is the largest in the world, with yakuza practicing そかいや (sokaiya), the method of legally purchasing corporate shares, attending meetings and making an ass out of yourself until the shareholders agree to pay you an outrageous sum of money. The connections are endless:

Zaibatsu, the Diet, Ministry of Construction, Yakuza, Pachinko, Uyoku, Burakumin, organ-legging, human-trafficking, soaplands, Kogyaru, snack bars, yatai, Salarymen, shareholders, you and me.

In other, less overtly legal-loophole, ways, governmental policies strengthen the economy by encouraging consumption. Japanese manufacturers of TV sets do not store parts of older models, forcing consumers to buy newer ones instead of having the old set repaired. Packaging habits are worse, but spread the wealth around more. Cookies are packed individually in cellophane, then put in a plastic box, put into a cardboard decorated box, wrapped once or twice, and then put in a carrier bag. More packaging = more trash = more industry = more spending. Containers and packages account for 60% of garbage volume. The lack of trashcans in public areas implies citizens are supposed to carry home any refuse they may generate in the city though this, of course, does not happen. So, in order to facilitate “proper” disposal and recycling of waste, Tokyo’s garbage laws require the segregation of garbage into eight categories, each into its own color-coordinated flammable bag (often from Indonesia-providing a huge profit to the importers). Rigid restrictions for a government with such liberal leanings regarding industrial waste.

Heavily dependent on industry, economic growth has always been of greater concern than environmental preservation. The number of pollution-related problems caused by industries have been increasing dangerously since the 50’s. Widespread air pollution was caused by the overuse of coal, while the furious output of the textile, paper and pulp industries contributed to horrendous water pollution. In the period of rapid growth directly following WWII the following isolated cases coalesced into a national crisis, making Japan one of the most polluted countries in the world. These instances are literally too numerous to list, but here are a few: Tokyo alone generates 10% of the 50 million tons of garbage produced in Japan (excluding the 367 million tons of industrial waste produced in 1996). Tokyo’s biggest trash dump (a floating island created in 1972) is full up.

  • The mercury-dumping Chisso Corporation of Kumamoto’s Minamata Bay infamy spawning its own disease.
  • Nippon Steel’s dredging of 350,000 cubic meters of contaminated silt in Dokai Bay (Kitakyushu) where propellers of ships using the bay didn’t rust away, they melted.
  • The leaking of rainwater into nuclear waste storage pits in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture which the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (PNC) knew about. All the fish were contaminated with organic tin, BHC and DDT.
  • High levels of cancer-causing dioxin in the blood of Ibaraki Prefecture residents living near a garbage incineration plant.
  • In Suginami, a Tokyo suburb housing a plastic-waste compacting plant, officials discovered more than 90 toxic substances around the site, including dioxin.
  • Hinodecho, a suburban Tokyo village turned dump had garbage trucks bringing 1.2 million tons of garbage and industrial waste every day. The cancer rate jumped 400%.


While there are no future plans to stop most waste stations due to cost management, there are plans to support some Asian nations financially in order to build incinerators allowing Japan to export more garbage to places like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. One such incinerator built by NKK is capable of dealing with 140 tons/day, though according to the Thai government, the incinerator generates about 70 tons of its own refuse a day.

Beyond 1,000,000 chopsticks and 80,000,000 newspapers a day, dioxin in the groundwater, BSE in Hokkaido, landfill islands, tetrapods, 2500 Dams and counting, concreted riverbeds, above-ground telephone lines, gas at $4.18 a gallon and the other multifarious bureaucratic disasters facing this country, what of the probably bigger problem, that of the ever-burgeoning societal refuse? The impalpable flotsam and jetsam of the biggest per-capita consumer society, the same one which once gave the world the four tenets of Shinto: Tradition and the family, Love of nature, Physical cleanliness and Matsuri, わびさび (wabisabi), the Zen aesthetic of earthy imperfection and 武士道 (bushido), the samurai code of chivalry, and now gives us the likes of ブッカケ (bukkake), the ubiquitous chikan, and what Ryu Murakami (Coin Locker Babies, Almost Transparent Blue) calls in a recent essay, the ひききのもり (hikikinomori). These “socially withdrawn people find it extremely painful to communicate with the outside world, and thus they turn to the tools that bring virtual reality into their closed rooms. Japan, on the other hand, must face reality itself. The country has to accept that World War II ended long ago-and so did the glory days of national restoration and economic growth.”

The current power base of Japan seems oblivious to the obvious state of things, that or the odd individual, always unpopular here, remains unwilling to take a very lonely stand. What it comes down to is a question of an economic mentality. The post WWII Japanese had it, because they had nothing, forced to scratch out livings on handfuls of maggoty rice, chaff and their wits, while the わがもの (wagamono) don’t have it. The majority of Japan’s youth, long engendered on a slothful consumerism, have renounced hard work for fashion, or rather the fad of now, the future be damned, choosing part-time jobs over fulltime obeisance. The education system, high schools especially, is finding it hard to keep apace with the frothing tide of apathetic teens, still employing 19th century Russian methods of uniformity while implementing codes echoing US zero-tolerance policy in vain hopes of stemming the coming tsunami of “socially withdrawn” individuals, among which number the yakuza-in-training ぼそ族 (bosozoku), the superfluous ヤンキイ (yanki) as well as other minor チンピラ (chinpira), who proliferate modern-day youth culture.

Again, don’t get me wrong, something, some kind of wa, makes me dig this country, despite its problems, be it the reverence of a still, though waning, extant Bushido culture, the easy-going affability of modern day monks or damn it, just the hot girls, but what remains is the ineffable something which makes me want to point out, Japan’s shortcomings rather than her strong points, to fight for the future, which may seem ominous, though the one thing which this nation has going for it is an abnormally strong sense of perseverance. This atypical island culture’s ability to continue on in the diffusing light of complete destruction continues to amaze and flabbergast many across the globe. While sickening in its own way, there is a strange attraction to the slick neon sex glow with its rivers of rice wine and tenuously twitching raw fish floating toward the asbestos-rich sunset. No matter the rubbish piles heaping on the periphery, nor the stench of the once freely flowing river, at the crossroads of slothful self-destruction there will always be a stool at the local ramen stand, a clearing amidst the clearly mounting rubble, where you can sit, slurp your pig bone broth down, toss your disposables and head off to the soapland for a little R&R. See you there.

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