A few years back, the normally sleepy town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture was filled with activists furious with its traditional dolphin hunt, which was featured in "The Cove," a 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary.

But as the fury ebbs, the town is now betting its future on dolphins.

"It was a bit wild back then — we never knew what was going to happen," says dolphin hunter Mitsunori Kobata. He shakes his head as he recalls when foreign activists descended on his small hometown.