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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



160 tonnes of whale meat for school lunches

Previously I've covered Japanese media reports from various regions in Japan where whale meat is being used in school lunches. Also I graphed the amount of research whaling by-product meat allocated to "public purposes" (school lunches included) versus total by-product volume.

I found another interesting article along the same theme at isanatori's french blog on whaling.
Let's defend our food culture! Moves to revive whale in school lunches / Yamaguchi

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.
This 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.

Another article on whale meat in school lunches in Hakodate (Hokkaido) notes that 76 schools there are running a whale meat lunch there once each year.

* * *

That's it from me in 2007.



Japanese media on humpback catch postponement

The Japanese media came alight with the news surrounding this year's 3rd JARPA II cruise, the first in which humpback whales were scheduled to be taken in the government backed programme.

The information available is that the IWC chair, Bill Hogarth of the US, visited Japan on the 11th of December and requested his counterparts at Japan's Fisheries Agency (JFA) to drop the humpback hunt as it would be an obstacle to successful progress at upcoming IWC normalization talks scheduled for March in England. Apparently "Hogarth has maintained a dialogue with his Japanese counterparts since the IWC meeting in June".

Leaders from JFA then paid a return visit to the US on the 19th, and relayed their intention to postpone the humpback hunt.

The decision was reportedly one made on the basis that Japan's aim is the normalization of the IWC, and leadership judged that including humpbacks in the JARPA research this year could be seen as provoking anti-whaling nations, where the species is a special favourite. Japan is also the current vice-chair of the IWC. However, the decision has been qualified with the condition that it will only apply so long as progress with IWC normalization is seen to be being made (as judged by Japan).

Foreign Minister Komura explained the details of the decision to his Australian counterpart over the phone of Friday evening (my rough translation):
"Minister Smith expressed his concern about Japan's research whaling, and said that they would like us to stop it. I explained to him that research whaling is perfectly legal. At the same time, we had a request from IWC Chair Hogarth, who said "I want to fix the IWC which is not fulfilling it's function. I want Japan, which is the vice-chair, to cooperate. I want Japan to reconsider it's hunting of humpback whales for as long as we are making efforts to fix the IWC". And because of this I relayed to Minister Smith that Japan "as the vice-chair wishes to cooperate in fixing the IWC. And regarding chair Hogarth's request about humpback whales, Japan has determined to postpone the hunt of humpback whales while it's judged that the IWC is making moves towards normalization."

"Chair Hogarth was thinking this could be for 1 to 2 years, but as for the Japanese government, it means the period of time during which the Japanese government judges that progress is being made towards normalization. If we are able to judge that there is no progress at all, then it means we will have a different situation".
While Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura denied that the decision was made out of consideration for Australia's recent complaints on the matter, Japanese news reports and general response in certain internet discussion forums have seen speculation that this move was a "cave in" to anti-whaling protest, particularly from Australia which had announced it would send a patrol vessel to monitor the Japanese research whaling fleet.

In subsequent reports, US officials were noted to have praised Japan's decision and IWC Secretariat Nicola Grandy also responded to Japanese media with a positive view of the move (my translation):
"It is an extremely good decision. It will bring a better atmosphere to future discussions".

"The chair country (USA) and Japan which is the vice-chair agreed to postpone the catch. The aim is to alleviated the heightened tensions that prevail amongst various governments at the current time".
However, in Japan the leading fisheries newspaper, the Minato Shinbun suggests that the move is a part of Japan's "last try" to normalize the IWC.

At 2channel, the forum erupted with hundreds of (largely misinformed) posters generally slamming the government for caving in to anti-whaling nation pressure, with many suggesting that it will only make the anti-whaling nations ask for more. Some criticised Prime Minister Fukuda (already suffering in the opinion polls), others blamed Japan's "weak" foreign ministry, although some more attentive people noted that on this occasion it was the Fisheries Agency that had agreed with the US on the matter.

* * *

The full Minato Shinbun article isn't available online so I've not seen it, but coming from the marine resource utilization realm, I imagine the author is likely as tired with endless attempts at IWC normalization as I am.

From the perspective of upcoming IWC talks, the government's judgment that it is in it's best interest to freeze the JARPA humpback quota ahead of talks aimed at IWC normalization is reasonable.

However, while compromising on the humpback issue may bring a "better" atmosphere to discussions on the IWC future, as Secretary Grandy suggests, I believe this alone will not greatly improve Japan's situation.

Further, it was surely clear that (irrespective of the actual details) agreeing to put off the humpback hunt would be interpreted as a "cave", which will only see anti-whaling campaigners seek to gain more. Japan need not "give" any further, but the move means there is perhaps even less reason to expect offers of compromise from those organizing anti-whaling campaigns in the west.

The core problems with the IWC remain, and there is no indication from any party about how they may be prepared to compromise in order to see the situation resolved. With 75% of member nations required to agree for the IWC to be able to function as a management organization, unless there are significant compromises made by one side or the other (or both), the IWC paralysis will continue.




Large whale by-caught in Iwate

Another by-catch incident in Iwate was reported in the Japanese media.

This time thankfully it wasn't another endangered western gray whale, but a more common fin whale.

The Iwate edition of the Asahi Shimbun has the story (see the original article for a good photo), my rough translation follows:
11-metre whale caught in set net - Iwaizumi town

A huge baleen whale measuring 10.75 metres in length was found caught in a set net belonging to the Komoto bay fisheries cooperative of Iwaizumi town on the morning of the 17th. It took all of 27 set net fishermen to bind the whale to a boat and bring it back to shore, where it was landed by a large truck at the Miyako market.

According to the set net's lead fisherman, Ichiro Miura (42), when the salmon set net was checked at around 9 A.M., a whale was found entangled in it, already limp.

After receiving notification from prefectural authorities, the Institute of Cetacean Research (Tokyo) investigated and advised that the whale was a large fin whale, which can grow up to 20 metres. As for whales entangled in set nets which can not be set free, except in the case of specially designated species, it is possible to sell whale carcases under Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries law. This whale too was quickly put to auction as soon as necessary procedures, including the preservation of a sample from the whale's fin for DNA examination, were completed.

With fin whales falling in the "high-class item" category amongst whale species, a Miyagi prefecture dealer bought the whale for 7,000,000 yen. Even the initially sober faced Miura, who had been lamenting the ruin of his net, said "Great, I got a bonus", after fetching the unexpectedly high price.
Another article notes the Miyagi buyer was a marine products processor, and the whale was cut up at the market. The ICR was also quoted again, noting that fin whales are found throughout the world, but are rarely landed in Japan. Most whales landed off the coast of Iwate are apparently minke whales, and they tend to be caught off the Ofunato coast, in the south of Iwate (Miyako city is further north). A Miyako market related person said that usually they will only see about 1 whale a year there, and was surprised to see such a large one come in.

Incidentally, 7,000,000 yen is more than $60,000 USD at today's exchange rate. It's not clear exactly how much meat was obtained, but it seems like a pretty good deal compared with the regulated whole-sale prices.

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News on whale meat trade negotiations

An Iceland representative in Japan was reported in the Chunichi newspaper on October 9 saying that they were continuing to negotiate with Japanese officials on a recommencement of trade in whale meat products, and were hoping to secure access "by next spring".

Unfortunately the article disappeared from the Internet quite quickly so I'm unable to provide additional detail but, as avid readers will know, around the same time the Iceland government also announced that they wouldn't be renewing the commercial quotas for the new season.

Most anti-whaling groups were rather pleased, but others (if I recall correctly, WWF International namely) were critical, as the reason for the quota not being renewed was that "no market" for the whale meat had been secured. Indeed at the time Iceland's IWC representative was quoted in the western media stating that negotiations to gain access to the target Japanese market were continuing. Nonetheless, earlier statements from related parties had suggested that the Icelanders had been hoping access would be secured by the end of summer 2007.

Incidentally, the apparent stock of meat Iceland has available - something like 250 tonnes of fin whale meat - would seemingly be absorbed pretty easily by the Japanese market, which over the past 12 months has seen average outgoing stock at around 700 tonnes per month, or 8,400 tonnes. Iceland's additional supply would amount to only an additional 2~3% supply.

More recently, this Jiji Tsushin article appeared on December the 13th. This time it's about Norway, my rough translation below for English readers:
Whale meat imports "waiting for Japan's response" - Norwegian ambassador to Japan hopes for recommencement after 19 years

Norway's Ambassador to Japan, Åge Grutle
, made it known that his country is proceeding with negotiations with the government regarding Norway's desire for Japan to import meat from whales caught there. The Ambassador stated that "Norway wants to resume exports next year. We are waiting for Japan's response". It would be the first time since 1989 if Japan does resume whale meat trade with Norway.

Regarding whale meat imports, Japan is also considering a trade resumption with Iceland, with which the trade had continued up until 1991. There is said to be no problem with whale meat trade with respect to the Washington Treaty (CITES). Japan is also hoping to strengthen ties with nations that support whaling through the trade resumption. However, as there would be an inevitable response from western anti-whaling nations, the Fisheries Agency "wishes to carefully observe the circumstances both at home and abroad" (far seas fisheries division), and is taking a cautious approach towards making the final decision.
As for circumstances abroad, apparently a Norwegian whalers union recently called upon it's government to cease co-operation with Japan on whaling issues until the issue of trade access is resolved.

The Iceland government's decision to hold off on issuing further commercial whaling quotas until a market for the meat has been found appears to have a similar intent behind it.

Back in Japan, Toshio Katsukawa, a fisheries researcher who regularly criticises the Fisheries Agency, suggested on his blog that Japan ought to move to resume trade with Iceland and Norway, and in doing so make clear the financial benefits available through sustainable whaling. As I understood him, it seemed he thought this would see other nations also switch to the sustainable whaling camp at the IWC, and thus heighten the pressure for overturning the moratorium.

As far as the whaling issue is concerned, to my mind resuming trade can only be a positive for Japan and the whaling camp (although I won't be holding my breath waiting for the western anti-whaling nations to adopt a sustainable whaling policy as a result). However these matters evidently aren't quite so simple. More waiting-and-seeing I'm afraid!

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Whale meat ever popular in Ishinomaki

Back in January this year I had some stories from Ishinomaki about whale meat (see my Ishinomaki label).

Sanriku-Kahoku.com again had a report on the 9th of December about local whale meat sales. Check the original article for a picture, below is a bit of a summary / translation:
The first day at the "Refined Hometown" roadside station Ichinomaki citizens form long lines

Ishinomaki's "winter whale meat distribution event" started on the 8th. The first day was held at the "Refined Hometown" roadside station, and many residents formed lines in advance of the 10AM start to sales.

Frozen minke whale meat, a by-product of research whaling, was distributed at the bargain price of 2,300 yen per 900 grams. 500 units were prepared for the first day, but had completely sold out in around 30 minutes. Again at the same station on the 9th, a further 600 units, 100 more than scheduled, will be distributed.

According to municipal authorities, interest in whale cuisine has heightened amongst city residents following the first ever "Whale Forum 2007" event that was held in Ishinomaki city in July, and the response to the distribution event was excellent.

Again on the 23rd from 6:30 AM at an early-morning market at the station square 100 more units will be available, and on the same day from 9:00 AM until noon 1,200 units will be prepared at the Ishinomaki city ultra-low temperature cold storage facility. Back at the roadside station, another 500 units are scheduled to be distributed on the 29th from 9:00 AM at the "Misoka market".

The city's marine resource section says "This year we secured an extra 1.1 tonnes, or 20% more whale meat for distribution than last year. We hope that many city residents will try it, and will continue to work to spread whale cuisine food culture"
Here we are only talking about a relatively insignificant amount of whale meat (several tonnes). The Ishinomaki area currently has the largest amount of whale meat in Japan, and saw more than 200 tonnes leaving storage there in October.

Another article dated December 16 has coverage of Ishinomaki's 2007 marugoto festa, again with lines of customers queuing for whale meat attracting the media's attention.

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Whale meat stockpile update - October 2007

October's stockpile figures for marine products in Japanese cold storage facilities were released by the Ministry on Wednesday. The official releases are here (PDF, Excel), and the main figures for whale meat stocks are below with my usual personal interpretations and speculation:

October 2007 outgoing stock: 739 tonnes

The figure is a relative whopper as far as Octobers go. Versus the same month last year, the outgoing stock volume was 51% higher in 2007. As I mentioned last month, October is usually slow, but contributing factors for the increase this year might be...
Possibly distributors paced their sales over the summer months, not expecting the JARPN II auction to be brought forward a month, and then moved to sell stock once news of the early auction broke in mid-October. ICR published figures suggest around 1,600 tonnes of new stock will have been made available at various wholesale markets around the country during November.

The same amount of meat was available in 2006's JARPN auction, and outgoing stock over the December and January period when the auction took place totalled 1,808 tonnes (November also saw 908 tonnes leave storage, but that was with more supply last year).

October 2007 incoming stock: 297 tonnes

Once again, about 30% more incoming stock in October 2007 than 2006, but in real terms its only about a 60 tonne difference.

October 2007 end-of-month stockpile: 3,798 tonnes

It was a brief peak above 4,000 tonnes last month, with stocks falling back into the 3,000 tonne range in October. Stocks had been sitting at levels around 70-75% of 2006 levels since April up until October, when the stock volume reached 81% of the same time last year. This month's accelerated outgoing stock volume puts the stockpile back down to 77% of 2006 levels.

Graph: Annual volumes
Outgoing stock for the year to date jumps back ahead of incoming stock in October, and should stretch out ahead even further over the last two months of the year.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements
As I suggested last month, there won't be any significant incoming stock volume in the remainder of the year, and we see the overall stockpile size is heading downhill, and it'll likely be that way until the JARPA II fleet currently operating in the Antarctic returns.

Stock levels of around 5,000 tonnes as of October 2006 fell to levels of around 3,150 tonnes by the end of February 2007, so the overall stockpile looks likely to bottom out somewhere in the 2,000 ~ 2,500 range in early 2008 by my reckoning. The JARPA II by-product won't go on sale immediately after the fleet returns (scheduled for April), so distributors will probably again look to pace their sales over the first several months of 2008 until the JARPA II auction.

Graph: 12-month moving averages
The high outgoing figure for October sends the 12-month average back up a notch to 725 tonnes as of October's end, but I'm picking it to fall again a little in November/December.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles
Stock continues to fall in Tokyo (down 132 tonnes to 689), Ishinomaki is still the leader (falling 206 tonnes to 1,367), Kushiro remains in third (down 104 to 592), the consumption area of Osaka is in it's usual range (at 238 tonnes), and in the other smaller areas with stocks Hakodate is down 17 to 180, Shimonoseki down 12 to 154, and Nagasaki rounds at the top 7 for the second month in a row, down 19 to 108 tonnes.

* * *

November figures are scheduled to be released on January 15, 2008.




Japanese IM setup in Enlightenment 17

After fiddling around with im-switch I got my Japanese input method to work as expected, but immediately after having got this working I found a much easier way for me, being an E17 user.

Here are the steps:

1) Get the packages
$ sudo aptitude install scim scim-anthy
This part is of course the same, get scim and scim-anthy to get what you need (aptitude may pull im-switch here too, even though it's not actually needed, as we see below).

2) Next, open up the E17 Configuration Panel.

3) Scroll down to the "Language" category and select it.

4) The Items includes "Input Method Settings". Select this.

5) Click Advanced

6) Select "System" (we are going to use a scim configuration file for E17 that is provided with E17 by default).

7) The list should contain a "scim" option - select it. This will make scim your input method. Apply / OK or whatever to close the configuration menu.

8) Remove what is junk for us E17 users (only if you already have im-switch set up)
$ rm -f ~/.xinput.d; sudo aptitude purge im-switch
9) Restart X, and you will have E17 running scim for you on start up.

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More Debian (lenny) setup notes - Japanese notes

So what use is a computer without Japanese input?

I was using UIM before, but apparently SCIM is pretty good too so I'm giving it a shot. These input method setups seem to be changing quite a lot so probably the next time I come back to read this again it will probably all be different, but hey you never know.
$ sudo aptitude install scim scim-anthy
This gets a bunch of other package dependencies including im-switch. This package was apparently introduced so that users wouldn't need to futz around with their .xsession file or whatever to get their CJK input methods working.

I forget exactly what I did after this to get things working, but I believe it was something like this...
1) make sure you have your UTF-8 locale set up. This is one way.
$ echo $LANG
Yeah, en_US is fine, you don't need to use ja_JP.UTF-8 to get your Japanese working. UTF-8 is good.

2) fiddle with im-switch.
$ im-switch -c

There are 5 candidates which provide IM for /home/david/.xinput.d/en_US:

Selection Alternative
+ 1 default
2 none
3 scim
4 scim-immodule
5 th-xim
System wide default for en_US (or all_ALL) locale is marked with [+].
Press enter to keep the current selection[*], or type selection number:
Well it seems like we get a menu like this. Typing "3" here to select scim seems to do the trick.

Now shut out of your X session, and login again. When X starts up it appears to read the config files stored under /etc/X11/Xsession.d/, and included in here is now a file called 80im-switch. This script will go looking for a configuration file in your home directory at ~/.xinput.d.
Here's mine:
$ ls -lg
total 0
lrwxrwxrwx 1 david 28 2007-12-06 23:32 en_US -> /etc/X11/xinit/xinput.d/scim
Wow, going round in circles aren't we, but if we take a look inside the file that this sym-link points to, it contains env vars like this:
If you look at the bottom of the /etc/X11/Xsession.d/80im-switch that picked up this config file, it shows that the value specified in XIM_PROGRAM is executed. All this happens when X is starting up. Passing -d to scim makes it run as a daemon apparently, and sure enough:
$ ps -ef | grep scim
... well, you get the picture, scim has been started up for us by X. Yay.

Finally, rather than use the default CTRL-Space combination to pull up the Japanese input method, you can configure scim to use the Hankaku/Zenkaku key (on a jp106 keyboard) to be the trigger instead. Other configurable stuff too:
$ scim-setup
This seems just fine for everyday use now.

Almost back to normal - just video playback / sound etc to fix now...

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