Holding Ceremony for the Dolphins and Whales of Japan

An annual ritual to honor our grief and love for our non-human kin

For two years now, we have been going to Taiji in the spring to hold ceremony for the dolphins and small whales which passed during the drive hunt. A poetic call to action that arose from the urgent need to raise awareness. With the lack of independent media, the majority of the people of Japan are still unaware of the existence of these practices, which have grown in scale in the past decades by an increasing demand from the captivity industry.

Inspired by activist Peggy Oki’s curtains of origami whales to commemorate the lives lost to Japanese Whaling , we have been bringing hundreds of small boats woven out of leaves and flowers to float in the waters of the Cove. Each boat is a prayer, symbolizing a life lost.

Last year 527 cetaceans were reported killed and 33 captured. Thanks to the loving hands of volunteers from all over Japan, we had over 570 boats for the morning of the ceremony. Leina swam across the bay to “release” the boats outside of the netted area to symbolize the souls’ return to their Ocean home.
We will be holding ceremony every spring until the dolphin and small whale drive hunt ceases in Taiji.

In the face of anthropogenic extinction, what does it mean to stand in solidarity with our more than human communities? 
Can we remember that we are kin?

We hope the ceremony can inspire these questions within widening circles in Japan. The need to persevere in offering inclusive and participative actions that inspire active hope feels more potent than ever; and as the community of grass boat weavers/activists grows, so does the field of awareness, empowering more people to take part in the healing of our relations with the natural world, for many generations to come. Leina’s children participated in last year’s ceremony and we hope this will open the door for more families to join us in the coming editions.

michiko kamesaki


Founding member –

20代の頃、ウミガメに会いたくてダイビングを始め、海が大好きになる 同時に、水族館にいる海の生き物達を見て、彼らが本来住む海にいられたらいいのに、との思いが強くなる。








大好きなイルカ、クジラ達とともに、仲間達とともに、このproject animaに参加することは、わたしにとっては、「その先」へゆこうということ。

Sae Katsuta


Founding member –














Michiko Kamesaki

Founding member –

My love for the ocean developed in my mid twenties, as I started free-diving to meet sea turtles.

After witnessing them in the open sea, my experience of marine parks and aquariums changed drastically. My desire to see marine animals thrive in their natural habitat intensified.

Soon after, the wish to encounter dolphins in the wild grew stronger and led me to the island of Ogasawara.

I ended up moving there with my family, surrounded by the vast ocean where dolphins and whales coexist peacefully with islanders. This relationship fueled by respect and the duty to protect and preserve gave rise to a feeling of profound love in me.

Inspired by Leina’s film “The Journey/Mother Ocean” in 2021, I joined a retreat to meet her, deepening my connection with the sea and my understanding of the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji.

Discovering the reality of the hunts and their connection to the captivity industry was a transformative turning point. It deepened my sense of connection with the web of life, reshaped my consciousness, and altered my lifestyle.

Today, I aspire to participate in the creation of a world where all beings live freely and happily.

Many years ago, I received a message from the humpback whales migrating to the island: “Move forward”.

I feel that my participation to Project Anima symbolizes that first step “forward”, guided by the spirits of the dolphins and the whales.

Sae Katsuta

Founding member –

I had my first experience of swimming with dolphins in the wild at the age of 20.

Following this encounter, I underwent an experience that I still cannot express in words – which lasted for over six months- leading to a significant shift in consciousness.

In October 2003, I learnt about an upcoming exhibition at the Nagoya Port Aquarium, showcasing orcas captured in Taiji in the region of Wakayama (referred to as the “Taiji 5”)
Upon hearing these news, my friends and I founded a citizen group to start an opposition movement in Nagoya, where I lived.

We were engaged in actions such as symposiums and collecting signatures for opposition campaigns
but I gradually started experiencing deep burnout and a sense of despair as my involvement grew, eventually leading me to distance myself from activism.
In 2019, while on the Big Island of Hawaii, I met Leina, a Japanese woman raised in France and in Hawaii.

As our connection deepened, I felt a renewed sense of hope about the possibility of change in Japan, in regard to the conditions of dolphins and whales

Rather than engaging in opposition movements or asserting one’s righteousness, I saw hope in promoting a new value system of coexistence with dolphins and whales through beauty and a creative approach.

The seed of this project has been germinating and evolving inside of me for over twenty years, as I held in my core the longing for a world where we can truly coexist with the dolphins and whales

Through Project ANIMA, this desire has manifested in a new form.
After participating in the grief ceremonies in Taiji in 2022 and 2023, my decision to be involved in this project as a core member feels simply natural and inevitable.