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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



Whale meat stockpile update - July 2008

Last month I kicked off the June 2008 whale meat stockpile update with a snapshot of a mini-stockpile of whale meat - that found in the canned food section of my local supermarket. Don't be fooled, it's not like you can find whale in the canned food section of every Tokyo supermarket, but at least it is available at mine (along with whale bacon).

The image on the left was the "stockpile" as of August 22, and then to the right of that is the situation a couple of days later on the 24th. Not pictured above, but again one day in early September I stopped by and just 4 cans were on display, but around the 10th of September the whale can shelf space was completely full. So this product seems to turn over quite well at my supermarket. The product itself is well labeled - it's crystal clear about the species that is included in the can, and where the contents were caught, and a special mobile phone readable bar code provides the URL of the company (Hokkaido based) that produces it where consumers can read more information. Recent JAS (Japan Agricultural Standard) guidelines urge whale products be labeled according both to species and region where the whale was caught, so this particular product complies well.

But on with this month's update. Here's the July stockpile release from the Ministry in Excel and PDF formats.

The big event for this month was the start of the JARPA by-product auction in markets around the country. The last week of the auction was in the first week of August, but most of the auction took place in July.

July 2008 outgoing stock: 898 tons

898 tons gone, and 683 tons of that supposedly left "consumption areas". We see below that most of the stock was probably leaving Tokyo storage facilities.

The 898 ton figure is 75% of the figure for the same month last year. Less stock in supply in 2008 seems to be a factor in the lower volume of outgoing stock.

July 2008 incoming stock: 522 tons

359 tons of the 522 "incoming" tons of stock apparently came into so-called "production" areas, and 163 into "consumption" areas. The total monthly figure was 82% of the figure for July 2007.

July 2008 end-of-month stockpile: 3,254 tons

Overall, down 10% on the end-of-month stockpile figure for June, but 5% higher than at the same point in time last year. A factor in this is the timing of the JARPA auction. In 2007 it started in late June and ended in late July. This year it started in early July, and ended in early August. As such a bit of a lag seems to be coming about. As is evident from the graphs below, there is less stock available this year than last.

July 2008 top stockpile regions

The official stats note the top 7 stockpile regions for each month, along with the info from June's release here's a summary of the movements:

Stockpile size at
month end
Stockpile size at
previous month end
Tokyo city wards1,427

The big decrease in Tokyo is due to the JARPA by-product auction. Note that Funabashi, which I have been speculating as the location for imported whale meat from the North Atlantic, remains in 3rd place overall, again with more than 300 tons. This has been the case for 3 months running now - and despite the JARPA by-product auction this stock hasn't gone anywhere. So it definitely seems to be tied up, and most likely because it's undergoing the first run of whale meat import procedures since the early 1990's.

Graph: Annual volumes

Seven months gone now in 2008, and incoming and outgoing stock volumes are now running just about equal. Over the summer months there will be more increases in incoming stock (due to ongoing research whaling programmes supplying by-product whale meat), but towards the end of the year it'll be consumption, suggested through outgoing stock figures that takes charge.

Graph: Monthly volumes

A downturn for overall stock volume in July, but expect to see another mini spike coming up, as with summer months in recent years.

Graph: Outgoing stock (cumulative)

Outgoing stock in 2008 is clearly running below levels seen in 2006 and 2007 when more supply was available, but still running above 2005 which was similar to 2008 in terms of incoming stock.

Graph: Incoming stock (cumulative)

The difference between 2008 and 2005 is basically the meat which turned up in Funabashi.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles

A bit hard to see, but the tiny brown line that appeared in the bottom right of this graph is the whale meat stored in Funabashi.

* * *

August figures are scheduled for release on October the 10th.

Some recent information reported at Tohoku Broadcasting suggests that one of the JARPN whaling vessels (the 2nd Kyoshin Maru) docked in Ishinomaki on the 29th of August, and some Bryde's whale and Sei whale "by-product" meat was unloaded there. Apparently around 270 tons of red meat were brought ashore there and then transported to a Ishinomaki city ultra-low temperature storage facility, where it's stored at -50 degree Celsius temperature. The report suggests that the whale meat is set to be shipped to nationwide markets sometime after October, and Ishinomaki stands to gain economic benefits from the usage of the storage facility and the shipping fees.

The rest of the meat presumably went elsewhere, most likely to a port in Hokkaido, I guess. We'll see next month.





Dinner from February 9.

Quite lovely.


Whale dish serving Izakaya - Hananomai

Long time readers will possibly recall some older coverage I did of Hananomai, a typical Japanese izakaya restaurant, which put whale dishes on it's permanent menu a few years back.

Unlike other whale specialty shops I've introduced here from time to time, Hananomai is a chain restaurant, and can seemingly be found in various places around Tokyo, and probably other centres as well.

We had some visitors come and stay with us earlier this year, and as you do we tried to show them some things unique to Japan, including a morning visit to watch a Sumo wrestlers training session (at Musashigawa-beya), and following along with the Sumo theme we also took them to Ryogoku (where the National Sumo Stadium is located) that evening for dinner.

There is a Hananomai restaurant there at the train station with a big Sumo wrestling ring in the middle of place, encircled by tables for diners. I'm pretty sure it's not a regular thing they do, but at least on the evening that we went an ex-Sumo wrestler was up in the ring - singing (pictured).

Anyway this was my first time to actually dine at Hananomai, and of course I was curious to see these upgraded whale dishes that were supposedly to be found.

"Kujira", the Chinese character for whale emblazons this section of the menu, consisting of two choices. "Our popular tatsuta-age", says the subtitle next to the Fried Whale offering (714 yen including consumption tax). "Goes great with Shochu", says the one next to the similarly priced Whale Bacon option, encouraging customers to also order a drink of Japanese spirits. At Hananomai the amount of kilocalories per dish is also clearly labeled.

We didn't order these for our non-Japanese speaking foreign guests. They were already suffering from a bit of culture shock after finding an unexpected crunch in the fried chicken cartilage that we had put in front of them, so I resisted the urge to order whale on this occasion.

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