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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



Saturday at Bunbuku

One minute's walk from Tokyo's Shimokitazawa station (a youth mecca several minutes train ride out of Shinjuku and Shibuya), is an izakaya called "Bunbuku". It's one of the favourite izakaya of some of my friends who live in the vicinity - they introduced it to me towards the end of 2005.

Around this time last year I noticed that they had a minced whale offering (kujira tataki - yukke fuu) on their daily menu (photo courtesy of Google images). Naturally I tried it out, and found it to be pretty good, although slightly expensive compared to other dishes on offer. I seem to remember having it on at least 2 occasions.

Some months later when I was there again, the minced whale was gone, but a "whale bacon" offering had appeared on the daily menu. Again it goes without saying that I tried it out as well, and found that my impression of whale blubber had improved quite a bit since I first tried whale blubber at a Sushi restaurant in Akasaka (Photo again from Google images).

I was out with my friends again last night and we decided to head to Bunbuku first, having not been there for a while. The daily menu gave me a surprise - not one, but two whale dishes on offer:

Three from the top - minku kujira sashi for 1,000 yen, and a few further rows down, the kujira bacon item that I've had before at 500 yen.

I had minke whale sashimi at another restaurant I often frequent the other day, so passed on the sashimi this time, but had the whale bacon again to get some omega-3 fatty acids.

Even without the whale meat offerings, Bunbuku is a good first stop for a night out in Shimokitazawa.

Here's Bunbuku's site at Gurunavi for all of those of you in Tokyo. It looks like they are part of this chain with restaurants in other parts of Tokyo as well.

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I could not figure out why your arguments never made any sense.


Then I saw this article in Scientific American discussing mercury and whale meat.

Now I understand.

"The researchers found that mercury levels in all 137 meat samples exceeded the guidelines of 0.4 part per million set by the Japanese government."

The US government sets a limit of 1.0 ppm, which may be instructive, but the statement that "all meat samples exceeded the guidelines" suggests that the study was poorly designed, as the biggest chunk of whale meat on the Japanese market is Antarctic minke whale, which is extremely low in pollutant concentrations (barely detectable levels in some tests).

The fact that a name like "Frank Cipriano" appears in the article also adds to the mystery.

My consumption decisions are based on a study contributed to by experts from the National Institute of Health Sciences, the National Institute for Minamata Disease, amongst others:


You of course are free to eat and drink what you please. I assume that you are aware of the risks associated with the consumption of all that you put in your anonymous mouth.
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