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We comb Japanese comments and interview some native Japanese to see what The Incident That Exploded The Internet has people here saying.

On May 28, a 4-year-old child somehow managed to fall into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. A male silver-backed gorilla by the name of Harambe then grabbed the child by the leg and dragged him through the enclosure, prompting zookeepers, apparently seeing no other viable options to end the crisis, to make what was surely the difficult decision to shoot and kill the gorilla rather than risk attempting to tranquilize the primate.

If you’re reading this (and particularly if you have a Facebook account), you’re almost certainly already aware of the incident and your friends’ varying opinions of the debacle.

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Westerners have lodged protests far and wide with hashtags such as #JusticeForHarambe holding, variously, the Cincinnati Zoo, the child’s parents, the City of Cincinnati and even the child himself responsible for the incident that ended in the killing of Harambe, a member of an endangered species. Some argue that, based on video, Harambe was actually attempting to protect the child, while others are arguing that, even if that’s the case, gorillas are wild animals and their moods can turn on a dime. The whole thing is a damn mess, is what I’m saying.

Here is a (rather long) video of Zoo Director Thane Maynard’s press conference detailing the event:

Even as a Cincinnati native, I have to admit I wasn’t entirely up to date on this story (look, I don’t watch a lot of TV) until droves of Japanese friends started telling me they’ve been seeing my hometown in the news because of “the gorilla incident.” Intrigued that my humble hometown would be featured in the news 7,000 miles away here in Japan, I decided to poke around and get Japanese opinions of the incident from friends and general Internet comments. Here’s what they had to say (presented in no particular order and without names or annotations because, you know, there are all kinds of death threats flying around in regards to this incident):

“I have sympathy for the gorilla. He spent his whole life in a cage and it ended abruptly in an incident like this. I wonder if they really had to kill Harambe. Even if they absolutely had to use a bullet, they could have aimed to injure instead. Could they have thrown a cage for the child to shelter in? On the other hand, I also find it amazing that so many people are jumping to conclusions despite having no firsthand knowledge of what really happened.”

“Many are quick to blame the zoo, but imagine if they hadn’t taken such drastic measures and the child died; they’d be out of business, for sure.”

“At first, I wondered why they didn’t use a tranquilizer dart, but then I heard that the zoo’s spokesman said a dart could agitate the animal and would take too long. If I had to assign blame, I think I would blame the parents.”

“Some people are saying the gorilla was trying to protect the boy, but I don’t blame the zoo. Animals can be unpredictable.”

“You all know if that was your kid down there, you would have made the same decision. If anything, to the parents, the zoo didn’t shoot fast enough!”

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“It didn’t seem to me that [Harambe] was agitated or attempting to hurt the child. It looked to me like the gorilla was trying to find a way to return the child back up over the wall.”

“For the parents and other zoo patrons to witness a 4 year-old killed in front of them would have been far more traumatizing. I think the zoo made the right choice.”

“I feel bad for the child. He had to witness such an animal shot before his very eyes. He’ll be traumatized for the rest of his life.”

“It looks like the zoo is at least partially at fault. Why didn’t they have barriers that kids can’t easily climb over?”

“People falling into enclosures happens more than you think. Being among these animals, it makes perfect sense that a child – who obviously doesn’t know any better – would want to get closer. I’ve also heard that the child was African American, so there could be a racial element to all these people getting so upset [editor’s note: meaning people might be less upset about the death of Harambe if the child were white]. In any case, it’s important to look at all the background information to not only decide if the killing was justified, but to understand why people are protesting and what the event means to everyone involved.”

I’ll admit, it’s been quite a while since I visited the Cincinnati Zoo, so I can’t speak to the height of the barriers, but then again, kids and stone drunk adults have a lot in common: They’ll find some way to do whatever crazy idea pops into their minds. I’m going to refrain from giving my own opinion on the matter because that is not a Pandora’s Box I have any intention of opening. Nevertheless, it does seem Japanese commenters and those interviewed generally had, shall we say, more measured opinions of the matter than what you may be seeing from some of your Facebook friends.

Feel free to give your own opinion down in the comments but, please, let’s keep it civil, guys!

Reference, images: YouTube  (1, 2)