Let's defend our food culture! Moves to revive whale in school lunches / YamaguchiThis is interesting information, as this article puts the annual volume of whale meat for school lunches at 160 tonnes (although increasing by 20%), making this an almost insignificant part of the whale meat market in Japan. As the article suggests, there is significance in that whale meat in school lunches is a useful vehicle for regions to pass on regional whale food cuisine to their future generations.
Whale meat is starting to be revived in school lunches in regions where whaling once flourished. Whale meat was representative of school provided lunches during Japan's period of high growth, but had disappeared with the cessation of commercial whaling in 1988. Against the backdrop of no advance in international acceptance for a resumption of commercial whaling, and whale food culture waning even in areas associated with whaling, there is a sense of crisis towards the waning interest in whales.
"The meat seemed hard... but when I tried it it was delicious". On the 8th at Furukawa middle school in Nagato city, Yamaguchi prefecture, whale tatsuta-age appeared on the school lunch menu. Since February the city has been reviving whale in all municipal elementary and middle schools, using whale about twice a year. This was the second time at Furukawa. Opportunities to eat whale in the households of even Nagato city, which flourished with whaling, have declined. Whale is a foodstuff to which students here are unaccustomed, but they carried the whale meat to their mouths with relish.
Nagato city moved to utilise whale in school lunches following the inauguration of the "Nagato Ootsu association for the preservation of whale food culture", which started in 2002 when the annual IWC meeting was held in the neighbouring city of Shimonoseki. Nagato city and other Japan-sea coastal areas in Yamaguchi prefecture flourished with old-style whaling during the Edo period, and whales were deeply associated with everyday life. Whale graves and whale song traditions have been inherited since this time, and a local speciality dish, "Nanban-ni" of whale meat stewed together with burdock remains.
However, with the cessation in commercial whaling, whale meat in circulation was reduced to just a fraction from whales taken in research whaling, and the culture connected with whales has waned. "It's become very difficult to eat in in the home, and housewives no longer know how to prepare a whale meat meal. If we don't proactively put whale meat in school lunches and so forth, even if whaling were resumed, the food culture itself will be gone" says Fuminori Fujii, the curator of the Nagato city's whale museum who also serves as the secretary of the "whale food culture preservation association".
On the 8th at the home economics class prior to lunch, when Furukawa middle school's nutritionist, Kieko Koike and others proposed to a Year 1 class of 28 students "making a different kind of food with today's ingredients", there were no students that imagined food using whale. "The children probably aren't familiar with it", remarked Koike.
This sense of crisis is what is behind moves in recent years to revive whale in school lunches in various regions. In Nagato, it was 30 years since whale meat had been used in school lunches. "Kujira-jaga" and tatsuta-age appeared on menus. The number of schools in Hokkaido, Wakayama and Hyogo using whale in school lunches is on the rise.
Tokyo's Institute of Cetacean Research, which conducts research whaling and other activities sells whale meat destined for use in school lunches at one third of the normal price. According to the institute, in the last fiscal year approximately 160 tonnes of whale meat was used in school lunches, and this volume has been increasing at around 20% each year.
The whale tatsuta-age that appeared at Furukawa middle school on the 8th was gobbled up with most students leaving none left over. "It was good because I don't often have the chance to eat it", was how Year 3 student Yuuki Matsubayashi (14) reflected on the meal. "People who grew up without eating whale are the parental generation now," says Curator Fujii. "If the children eat it, parents too will come to eat it, and this will raise their interest in whales", he hopes.
Labels: whale meat school lunches
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