Viewers expressed mixed reactions Wednesday to "The Cove," a covertly filmed movie about a Japanese dolphin-hunting village that was shown to the Japanese public for the first time at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Some were shocked but also defended the hunt as part of the country's culture.
The film, added to the festival at the last minute partly because of international pressure, shows the annual hunt in the seaside town of Taiji, where about 2,000 dolphins are killed every year for their meat. Some are captured and sold to aquariums.
Junko Inoue, a resident of Saitama, north of Tokyo, said she found the final scene, where dozens of dolphins trapped in a hidden cove are speared by fishermen, turning the water blood red, "shocking."
But she didn't think the hunt should be stopped entirely. "There are a lot of cultural differences in people's eating habits," she said.
"Westerners say it's OK to kill and eat cows, but not dolphins," said Hiroshi Hatajima, a 42-year-old office worker from Tokyo. "That kind of special treatment isn't going to register with a lot of Japanese. We have to eat animals to survive. It's a cultural clash."