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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Kintetsu's whale meat offerings, and "harihari nabe"

The Sankei Shimbun has an article on whale meat in the "lifestyle / health" section of their news website. Here's my best-effort translation (original):

The classic cooking ingredient of "whale" - Kintetsu Department Store, Abeno main store

With the first three days of the new year having passed, there must be many amongst us who have tired of "Osechi ryouri" (traditional New Year cuisine) and "Ozooni" (rice-cake soup). Well, there's also the option of dishes using "whale", another of Japan's traditional cooking ingredients. In recent times, whale has come to be rarely eaten, but is an old-fashioned ingredient the originally started to propagate in the Edo-era (1603 - 1867), and was a valuable source of protein for Japanese people.

The "whale store" within Kintetsu's main store of Abeno is carrying whale meat. Whale meat from the several species of whale caught in research whaling is on sale. The store manager, Tatsuo Nishikawa (66) recommends the whale meat product. "It's low in calories, and high in protein. Whale meat is good for harihari nabe using mizuna (a type of vegetable), or in sashimi, as an oden ingredient, or in cutlets. I hope people eat more whale meat, and remember this classic taste of Japan".

There are mainly 7 types of whale meat, including the high-end "
onomi", the marbled meat from the tail, the standard "akami" red meat from the back and belly, and the skin or "blubber" which is also used in sushi. Historically blubber was used for obtaining whale oil, but is also reported to be delicious when eaten sliced and dipped in ginger soy sauce. Also, rare meats including blubber and bacon from fin whales which have recently been caught for the first time in 30 years are also available.

For use in
harihari nabe, the store recommends the meat from the area covering the jaw bone, known as "kanoko", of minke whale. The fatty portion spotted with meat is pleasing to the eye, and is apparently a rare delicacy. It is tougher than "onomi", but is apparently also tasty as sashimi.

The season for nabe will still continue for sometime, yet. Nishikawa-san says "If you use it in "harihari nabe", the light cruncy texture of
mizuna and whale meat complement each other very nicely. It's refreshing, and unlike meats such as beef, the fat is light-tasting. With low-cholestorol whale meat, I hope people can see themselves healthily through the year."

(2007/01/04 22:21)
The picture shows some of the marbled meat, along with mizuna, the green vegetable, and some slices of blubber on the right of the plate.

For those not so familiar with Japanese cuisine, you can read about what "nabe" is here.

* * *

Having never heard of it before, I did a Google for "harihari nabe", and a whole bunch of results came up that reference whale meat. Nothing in "harihari nabe" is a whale related kanji character, so I was somewhat surprised.

According to Hisako Ooishi at this particular search result from 2003, the main aim of "harihari nabe" is to eating the green mizuna vegetable, but traditionally whale meat was also used. She introduced a recipe using pork instead.

Another interesting result was this one from whale meat dealer Nichigei Shoji at the famous Japanese online shopping site, Rakuten. Take a look:
Another site, hariharinabe.com is by the Nakamuraya shop in Osaka, which seems almost devoted entirely to harihari nabe. They seem to have some kind of link to the traditions of Japan's most well known whaling town of Taiji, in the neighbouring Wakayama prefecture.

Also (for me to check again later), some other links are here and here.

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Here is the original Japanese text of the article:

昔ながらの食材「鯨」 近鉄百貨店阿倍野本店

 正月三が日も過ぎ、おせち料理やお雑煮に飽きてしまった人も多いのでは? でも、ここでさらに日本の伝統的な食材「鯨」を使った料理をひとつ。最近は口にすることが少なくなった鯨だが、もともとは江戸時代から普及し始めていたという昔ながらの食材で、日本人の貴重なタンパク源だった。





If any one wishes to correct my "best-effort" translation, please do!
Hi David,

Happy New Year to you and your fiancee.

I've never tried Hari-hari nabe, but it seems it is a "whale" speciality of Osaka. It is interesting to notice that the consumption of whale products is more important and older in the West of Japan (Osaka, Wakayama, Kouchi, Yamaguchi, Nagasaki, ...). There is also a great diversity in the way whales are consumed between these regions.

The picture shows "kanoko" which is meat form the base of the jaw, from what I heard.

The name of the different parts of a whale have quite funny names (which wouldn't let you guess what it is if you don't know about it).
For example, saezuri (tongue), mamewata (kidneys), hyakuhiro (intestines), honkawa (blubber with a thin layer of skin), etc.
Hi isanatori,

Happy New Year to you, and thanks for your interesting comment.

"jaw"! That's the word I was looking for, not "chin"! :) Thanks! I'll change my translation I think :)

I also happened to wander into a local bookstore today and found myself presented with a range of "nabe" recipes. I was surprised by how diverse the recipes are. Anyway, I also happened to find a recipe for pork-based harihari nabe, which also mentioned, like you said, that it's a Kansai-area recipe, originally using whale meat.

Maybe Y/H-san can tell us whether he's ever had it before.

Actually, I was in Shikoku over the New Year holiday in Ehime-ken. Neighbouring Kochi-ken is apparently quite famous for whale-watching these days, and I had hoped to try to go on a boat ride sometime, but the season ended in October before I could get myself organized. However, despite the whale-watching industry having developed there, it seems that the whale-consumption tradition is still strong (there was a report of a stranding a few weeks ago), and I also saw some "くじらの大和煮" at a sovenir shop in Matsuyama airport on the way back to Tokyo. I thought it might be worth a try, so I bought it. Apparently it is "ゴンドウクジラ", which seems to be one of the more "toxic" species out there, so I'll not be eating too much at once. Have you ever tried it?
>Maybe Y/H-san can tell us whether >he's ever had it before.

Thank you for the info about
Kintethu Department store.
Your translation is excellent!

Kintetu Department Store is not
so far from my office,I somtimes
visit to buy something.The store
is one of the big department stores
in Kansai.Especially the Abeno Store has much merchandising.

As you reported,the whalemeat corner sells many kinds of whalemeat:fin whales,minke whales,sardin whales,bottleneck whales,and Gondo whale.

The other day,I dropped at the store to find the Gondo whalemeat directly sent from Taiji town in Wakayama prefecture.

I wish David-san and Isanatori-san
could have visited the store !
If you have the chance to visit
Kansai districts,please let me attend you :-)

As to the Harihari Nabe,the nabe
is now the luxury dish.
But about 40 years ago,the dish
was the typical type of Japanese dish usually seen in many houses.
In fact,when I was about 10years
old,about once in a month,my
family enjoyed it because chiken
or beef was very expensive.

As to Harihari-nabe,there are the two ways for us to cook.

① One is as follows.

Heated pan → adding sliced whale meat→adding soy source & suger →adding Sake(Japanese liquor)→
adding mizuna (a type of vegetable)→well boiled →ready to eat!

If you like Beef Sukiyaki taste,I
recommend above.

② The other is as follows.

Heated pan→adding Dashi (Japanese Soup made from dried bonito and dried kelp)→adding some soy source, Sake(Japanese liquor)and salt →adding sliced whale meat → adding mizuna (a type of vegetable)→well boiled →ready to eat!

If you like to Japanese soup,
I recommend this ②.

Probably Kana-san knows and will give you the image of the two.

Aithough I am glad to see many
kinds of the meat,they are a little expensive now -this makes
me a little unhappy.

Many thanks,David-san


A happy new year!

Kotoshimo douzo Yososhiku!

Hi again, David.

I think I tasted some cans of yamatoni of mixed Baird's beaked whale (tsuchi-kujira) and pilot whale (gondou-kujira) meat before. I must admit it wasn't much to my liking as the meat was quite chewy with cartilage-like bits and the sauce a bit too sweet for me.

I suppose it is mostly blubber and organs which contain the highest levels of mercury and organochlorines. Eating once of this can certainly won't have too much effect on your health, I think. The problem is more for people who eat this very often, especially pregnant women.

As there is no whaling performed in Shikoku actually, I suppose the meat comes from Taiji where a few pilot whales are hunted every year through whaling and drive hunting.

I have been to Muroto last october to assist to a matsuri related to Edo period whaling. On this occasion, I visited a small museum dedicated to the history of whaling in this region. I also had some kujira no tatsuta-age at the nearby restaurant.

Muroto is the only place in Shikoku where whaling has been undertaken during the Edo period (although there were some attempts to hunt whales in Kubotsu and Tosa-shimizu). The whaling methods using nets were transmitted by people from Taiji.

Although most whaling activities stopped in the beginning of the 20th century in Shikoku, Muroto has produced a lot of gunners and other workers who took part in modern whaling. One of them is Izui Moriichi who is famous for having harpooned a record 10,304 whales.
Of course, the consumption of whale meat is still a tradition there.

If you have an opportunity, you should visit this town. The people are very nice.


Thank you for the information and recipes! I hope to try them sometime.


I see. Indeed the packaging doesn't state the exact origin of the meat, only that it is 水産庁の小型捕鯨許可により捕鯨されたコンドウクジラの鯨肉. The company packaging it is 海訪屋.

Of the food I have tried, the tatsuta-age at Kujiraya was the best (the sort of thing you want to go back and have again).
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