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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



More whale meat offerings for Kyushu tourists

Here's an article (original Japanese here) regarding plans from Hirado, Nagasaki, to introduce various whale items to menus in the region's tourist facilities.
Hotels, ryokans (Japanese style inns and eating and drinking establishments in Hirado city are to simultaneously start offering whale cuisine on new speciality product menus. A final taste testing event was held at the city's northern community centre on the 18th.

Whale food culture permeated through the Hirado region, where whaling history extended from the Edo era (1603 ~ 1867) to early Showa (1925 ~ 1989). The Hirado and Matsuura regions tourism human resource development council, made up of local government and commerce and industry associations from Hirado and Matsuura was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to work towards the creation of the new speciality food menus.

Around 30 people from local women's groups and tourism operators were invited to the taste testing event, where the Hirado industry cooperative prepared four dishes, and the Hirado food and drink industry produced ten. In addition to standards such as sashimi, items including shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, chilli sauce, bacon pizza and salads made up the elaborate new menu.

Takada Kumiko (56), a Hirado city tourist guide from Iwanoue town was full of expectation, saying "This was my first time to eat it, but it is surprisingly delicious. My image of whale has changed. Many middle aged and older people have a desire to eat whale meat, so I can confidently recommend this to them. I hope it becomes a Hirado speciality".

Once the cooperatives have reviewed the results of questionnaires from the test tasting event, they will decide on respective items to be included in the unified menu. They will start promoting the menus to tourists from next month.
More coverage of this story can be found in Japanese here.
UPDATE 2007/01/23
: And here is my (as always, just best-effort) translation of this article...
Brandifying modern whale cuisine - Hirado's whaling history for tourism - Sales from mid-February

On the 18th, Hirado city's restaurant business unveiled modern dishes using whale meat, as they set to bring "whale cuisine" to the market as a new brand for the region, leveraging the region's Edo era history as a prosperous whaling post. In Hirado city, the Hirado Tourism Association is conducting an experiment to test the concept of "dinner / lodging separation", where by tourists are lodged over night in hotels and ryokans, but enjoy local speciality food for dinner in the town. The association aims to appeal to tourists and reinvigorate the region through the development of the unique menus.

This was the second such event since November last year, being conducted as a part of a joint project between Hirado city and the Matsuura region to develop tourism human resources.

"Tasty", was the word on the lips of most participants. The same cooperative apparently has plans to offer various whale cuisine in conjunction with the "Hirado hot springs / castle town doll festival", in which hina dolls will be displayed in 130 locations throughout the urban area.

Whaling was well underway in the waters of Genkainada based out of Ikitsuki Island (a part of modern day Hirado city) by the early stages of the 18th century. By the 19th century, the "Masutomi group" had expanded their fishing grounds into Iki and Goto, making the group the largest kujira-gumi in Japan. Later, yields reduced and traditional whaling waned.

Building on this historical background, the thought is that the creation of "whale cuisine" peculiar to the region, following on from the "Hirado Flounder" that was introduced in January 1997 as a regional brand, will become a new tourist attraction, and boost sluggish tourist numbers in the region.

Restaurant operator Miyakuni Kazuhiko (30), a resident of Kouyamachi, Hirado city, who entered a pie offering to the event, said "we got rid of the smell of whale meat, and softened it by marinating it overnight in salad oil, olive oil, and ginger and laurier. I really hope people will taste this healthy sensation".
Interesting stuff. I suppose western environmental groups might suggest that Hirado residents look to boost tourism through whale watching instead of whale cuisine, but the people who decide the way forward will be the people who are actually stakeholders, and they will do so in accordance with their own cultural values.

* * *

Hirado, a small island off the north west coast of mainland Kyushu, is not completely unknown to the western world. Several years ago the western media picked up a story about plans to "farm" minke whales in the region. I've not heard anything more about the plan since. I'm not sure how genuine the story was.

This site, which looks to be operated out of Hirado, is dealing in whale meat products mainly sourced from the research programmes.

* * *

Remember the story last month about whale meat being introduced at Yobuko lodge in Karatsu city, Saga prefecture (next to Nagasaki)? You can see some pictures of the whale meal on offer here, at QKamura Service's homepage. Looks pretty good to me.

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Here are the original Japanese articles for the archives...

クジラ料理統一メニューへ試食会 平戸名物に

Caption: クジラのアゴ肉などの刺し身を試食する主婦ら=平戸市戸石川町、北部公民館






2) 創作鯨料理ブランド化へ平戸の捕鯨の歴史を観光に 来月中旬から売り出し

写真: アイデアを凝らしたさまざまな鯨の創作料理が並べられ、試食する観光関係者ら




写真: 試食会では鯨のベーコンを使ったピザも出品された




=2007/01/20付 西日本新聞朝刊=
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