Author Archives: ginnyhchung

The Cove

             The Cove is a documentary film directed by Louie Psihoyos in 2009, and the film reveals the horrible situations of Japan’s dolphin fishery.

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             Ric O’Barry is the former dolphin trainer. One day, because of the hard training, one of the dolphin that he trained committed suicide by holding their breath intentionally. After that, Ric O’Barry quitted his job as a dolphin trainer and he decided to become an activist to save dolphins.

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             Dolphins are able to socialize with human beings. Also, not only dolphins are intelligent, but also they have great capacity for self-awareness so they have their own will to decide to live or die.

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Ric O’Barry and his team went to the cove called Taiji in Japan, where people brutally kill dolphins and sell them as food disguised in whale meat, or catch dolphins and trade them to the aquarium or the dolphin shows. Dolphins are sensitive to sounds, and Japanese people use that point to easily capture them. Annually, more than 20,000 dolphins are killed in Taiji, which is the main source of dolphins to all over the world, but people in the town hide their secrets and do not acknowledge what they do to dolphins.

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Then, some people might say there would be no reason why the dolphin fishery should be banned if it is a part of Japanese culture. Food is what all human beings need to live, and the choice of food depends on individual taste; if Japanese people love to have something for meal and it is a part of their cultural aspect, we would not have rights to criticize it. Then, is ‘dolphin fishery’ could be justified and be acknowledged in the meaning of food consumption and cultural characteristics? The answer is ‘No’.

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First of all, dolphins contain high levels of mercury in their body, so it is very dangerous to have them as edible product. However, killed dolphins are often disguised in whale meat and sold in markets. Mercury is extremely harmful to human bodies as seen as Minamata diseases of Japan, and Ric O’Barry stresses that people should be aware of the dangerousness of dolphin meats which can bring another tragedy to human society.

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Secondly, the process of killing dolphins is inhuman while dolphins are extremely friendly creatures and being gentle to human beings. should be seen as ‘slaughter’ or ‘massacre’. As Ric O’Barry said, dolphins have special capacity to commune with human beings, and even they are able to take their own lives if they got threatened, which means they are like mammal counterparts. Also, dolphins are already an endangered species, and killing such a large numbers of dolphins every year destroys whole marine ecological system.

Even though this kind of situations are considered as serious global problems, Japanese government still refuses to change their attitude, and through the film, Ric O’Barry reveals the horrible dolphin slaughter happened in Japan, and stresses that this is the time for us to take action to save dolphins.

Food can have various meanings in people’s life. First of all, food is a source of energy; having food properly can help people to keep their bodies in a good condition. Furthermore, food is meaningful not only in physical way, but also in emotional way. By sharing same food together, people feel close to each other, and unite each other. In the literature or the film, food also plays an important role as in our real life.

Momotaro, is a famous traditional fairy tale of Japan. Momo, means peach in Japanese, and Taro is a part of common Japanese male name. An old woman finds pretty peach on the river and brings it to home. An old man, her husband, is also very pleased with the peach saying that it really looks good. The peach turns to a young boy, and the old man and the old woman names him Peach-boy (Momotaro). One day, Peach-boy decides to start a journey to go to the island inhabited by Orges in order to defeat the Orges. Before Peach-boy’s departure, the old man prepares millet dumplings for him. I think that can be interpreted in two meanings; the old man wants to offer him a powerful sources so that he can fight well, and also preparing food for someone is a good way to show affection. At the beginning of Peach-boy’s journey, he meets a dog and a monkey, and Peach-boy willingly shares his millet dumplings to them, and they becomes companions. Sharing millet dumplings is only a part of their journey, but it has the most important meaning since it is a starting point to open their minds to each other. Also, millet dumplings work as a source of energy and leads Peach-boy, the dog, and the monkey to win a victory.

The film, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, is a Japanese propaganda film produced in 1942 by the director named Mitsuyo Seo. The folk tale Momotaro was dramatized into an animated film, and that is the reason that the title of the film was named after Momotaro. The characters of the folk tale such as Momotaro, a spotted dog, a monkey, and the orge (demon) appear in the film, but the story of the film is more war-like since it was produced during the World War II to stimulate Japan’s Pearl Harbor Attack. In the film, the animals such as a dog, a monkey, and a rabbit prepare war to defeat demons. Before heading to demon’s island, the monkey prepare millet dumplings for his companions, similar to the old man of Momotaro. Millet dumplings have an important meaning in the film too. Before the war, the warriors need enough energy to fight, and millet dumplings give powers to the warriors in order to win the war. Also, food does not only strengthen physical power; the warriors share same food together, and it strengthen their connections and unifies them.

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Monkey brings millet dumplings for his companions

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Monkey becomes stronger after eating millet dumplings

The film, Minamata: The Victims and Their World, is a documentary film directed by Noriaki Tsuchimoto in 1971. Japanese company named Chisso illegally discharged contaminated water into the river, and as the result, residents living near the river suffered from severe diseases called Minamata-diseases which is named after the name of the region, Minamata. At the beginning of the film, it says that most of the residents were engaged in fishing, and it would mean that their main dishes for everyday were seafood. Living by fishing and having similar food would make the community share a bond. However, after Chisso discharged the polluted water containing mercury, it affected all the communities; people started to become ill and even stray cats that ate contaminated fishes died in unaccountable posture. In this situation, food put the community into suffering; sharing food eventually turned into a disaster making innocent people suffer from diseases. Also, because of severe mercury poisoning of water, the residents could not eat the things that they had enjoyed through their lives. However, Chisso cooperation and even the government ignored them and treated them like ‘people who are fated to die’. So the residents who had been suffering from mercury poisoning or who already lost their beloved family members decided to fight over Chisso cooperation and the Japanese government, so they went to a trip to Osaka in order to protest. This is quite similar to the story of the folk tale Momotaro and the film Momotaro’s Sea Eagle; the residents are like warriors and the Chisso cooperation and the government are like the opposite side that the warriors are fight against.

The folk tale Momotaro, the propaganda film Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, and the documentary film Minamata: The Victims and Their World, have not only the similar spiritual lessons, but also have similar feature: food. Sometimes, food brings people all together and encourages them feel unified, and sometimes, food offers people physical energy, and sometimes, food bonds the group together by a common fate.

Food, People and Society

The movie Tampopo is directed by Juzo Itami in 1985, and the episodes of the movie are about food. In the movie, food means not only the substance that humans eat in order to support life, but also something that connects people with people, and people with societies. Especially, ramen, which is one of the most famous food of Japan, is the main food of the movie Tampopo. At the beginning of the episode, a young man learns how to eat ramen properly from his ramen teacher. They consider every detailed movement as important tips of manners to eat ramen, and that is not to show off that they have such a great table manner to other people; it is for having ramen with full respect and for enjoying it sincerely. By his teacher, the young man is instructed not only the table manner, but also the pleasure of enjoying ramen. I think the reason why ramen is set as a main food of the movie is because it represents Japan, and the characters of the movie are all involved in ramen, which also means people’s efforts to preserve Japanese food culture in the era of westernization in 1980‘s.

Food also plays an important role in the episode of a woman named Tampopo. She is a widow who runs a ramen restaurant. One day, she meets a man named Goro and asks him to make her as his apprentice. They put efforts to improve Tampopo’s skill to make perfect ramen and make her restaurant a better place, and I also interpret it as an effort of Japanese people in order to keep Japanese traditional culture. Also, Tampopo,Goro and people around them are connected together with ramen, and I think it shows that how people can fall in love with food that please their appetite and make them involved in human relationship with the fact that they are having same food together.

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Among all the great scenes, I chose the scene (30:15) from the episode about spaghetti because I think this scene shows the attitudes of Japanese people towards western culture. In that period, Japan was experiencing westernization and modernization. Western influence was spread to all Japanese society and also the food culture of western countries affected Japanese food industry. In the episode of spaghetti, there is a club that teaches how to eat spaghetti with western table manner with forks and knives. The members of the club are mostly young women, who want to encourage themselves to be westernized. However, after they see the white man makes noise and slurps his spaghetti, they start to eat as they want and forget about the table manner that they have learned so far. In this scene, I realize that the most important attitude towards food is about how to enjoy it. Also, people in the room become all together with the food, and I think that might be the lesson of the movie; food is a part of culture, and when people truly love it and enjoy it, it can be a means of communication, and plays an important role in human relationship and society.