Is it fair to say that most people from outside of Japan (with the exception of a few others somewhere near the Arctic) see this nation’s relationship with whales as being curious, at best? At its worst, maybe it’s a relationship so cold it could lower the temperatures of the nation’s favorite Antarctic hunting (sorry, researching) waters.
This month has done nothing to make this coupling between man and beast any clearer. But then the Internet is littered with the detritus of human boredom and psychotic stupidity, too much of it involving animals. Perhaps the most recent and notorious case is the one where a group of beach goers passed around a baby dolphin for selfies … until it died. That was in Argentina.
Japan recently submitted its own entry into the baffling disregard for other creatures category, almost literally.
The Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido in Mombetsu City, Hokkaido, this month announced the winner of their オホーツクの四季 / 4 Seasons of Okhotsk Photo Contest. This was the 25th contest held and seems to have been in celebration of a 25th anniversary. This year’s winner obviously needed to be something special. And it was, in a way! Out of 118 entries, top prize went to that of an image entitled: 征服 / seifuku (conquest, subjection, defeat). Sounds a bit bleak! The picture featured a young man, stood atop a dead, beached whale doing the ガッツポーズ / gattsu pose - the Japanese term for a sort victory fist pump.
If it sounds like we’re making this up, we’re not (although we wish we were). You can see the image here on the livedoor NEWS site from which we came across this story.
The results of the contest were announced on the 9th of this month with the image appearing on an ‘official site’ (presumably the museum’s) as well as in a Hokkaido newspaper.
If you’re wondering when we reach the point of someone saying something to the effect of ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure if this is an appropriate winner for a public photo contest.’, it’s now.
According to the livedoor article, it wasn’t long before observers took to social media, as well as to calling the museum directly, to voice their objections.
On the 15th of this month, the museum posted a message on their official site with words to the effect that after talking with contestants and judges, the winner withdrew from the contest.
In the statement they also explained that the standards/criteria for judging the contest were not clear enough, and that even though the museum is an institute for the study of nature and the environment, their consideration and recognition of this was lacking. They went on to apologise for the incident.
The livedoor article sites that the person responsible for selecting the ‘winning’ image was a lady from the Hokkaido Photo Association.
The other prize-winning photos can be seen here. You’ll probably notice that the most prominent image is that of a young lady being kissed by some seals! All’s well that ends well, eh?!
Did you look at the image? Worthy of a prize or denigration?
Image (cropped, and not part of the contest)