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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 news from Japan, this time from Yokohama, in Kanagawa prefecture just south of Tokyo. This story again from Tokyo Shimbun.

Bring back vigor to "Whale Row"
Restaurants in Noge district, Yokohama city aim to create a speciality with new menu development
This is how the headline from the article dated 2009/02/05 reads.
In Noge district of Yokohama city's Naka ward, there is an area lined with restaurants for common people, and there the restaurants are cooperating together in an effort to create a guide map and new menu items. Noge became lively after the end of WWII when a "Whale Row" of restaurants serving whale meat formed there. The restaurant operators there today are looking to liven up the area once more with whale.
The Whale Row was located in the vicinity of Sakura River New Road, in front of the JR rail station of Sakuragicho. The New Road was made by filling in the river there. In those days, the riverside was packed with restaurants selling whale cutlets and so forth, and the air was thick with the smell of cooking whale meat. Supposedly it was packed with people as at that time of food shortages whale was a precious source of protein. But with the filling in of the river, the "row" disappeared, and the increase in diversity of food, along with the banning of commercial whaling for resource conservation [says the article], shops dealing in whale dwindled.
The arrival of the Black Ships [of Commodore Perry] led to the opening of Yokohama port 150 years ago in June, and this event is regarded as resulting in the USA choosing to establish Japan as it's base for reprovisioning it's whaling vessels. With that historical background, last year 9 shops developed speciality menus such as gyoza and Japanese style curry using whale meat. In a taste testing event these items were popular, and as such the "Noge Restaurant Association" decided to expand the menus through the whole area.
According to the plan, a "Noge whale map" illustrating all the restaurants in the area with whale cuisine will be produced by April. With whale meat limited in distribution volume, the association aims to purchase whale meat on behalf of all shops, so as to ensure whale is available at cheap prices with stable supply.
On January 30, a whale meat taste testing event and cooking lecture were held. The article quotes a Mitsuo Ono (69) who runs a sushi restaurant as saying, "I think I'll use the red meat for nigiri (hand-rolled sushi) at my shop". The head of the association, Masanobu Tai (53) is quoted saying "There are people who are against whaling, but whale cuisine is Japan's precious food culture. I hope that we'll be having people say 'Let's go to Noge, and eat whale'".
Noge has a web page with more information about the plan and the recent cooking event (in Japanese) at the link below:


It sounds like some port opening commemoration events will be held from April, which is why they are targeting April for the completion of the map.

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Hello David. Do you have any data or any guesses on how much edible meat is yielded from one minke whale? Say the average minke weighs 4000kg, how much of it is used for human consumption? Thanks.
Hi. Just wanted to say I love this site. The indifferent and straight forward approach on this subject is a breath of fresh air in this world (at least in the UK), where the binds of social engineering is so strong, I'd sometimes think we're back in the 19th Century socialist mindset. It takes a person like you to bring sanity to this godly mess. I'm glad there are still clear thinkers like yourself out there.

I don't have any document on me about that, but some points to consider:

1) Where is the minke whale from? Antarctic minke whales are a different species to the common minke and I believe they are a tad bigger. Also, the Antarctic species apparently exhibits very low levels of pollutants, sometimes even undectable levels. The common minke in the Northern hemisphere have high levels of certain pollutants in the blubber and internal organs etc. So it means that you basically get less edible meat from a northern hemi minke than an Antarctic one - this is my impression

2) Average minke whale weight is probably twice as much as you mention - more like 7 to 8 tons, rather than 4.

3) Variability in catch. For the Antarctic minkes, currently only Japan operates its programme there at the moment where they attempt to randomly sample whales, rather than aim for just the largest ones as a typical commercial whaling operation would. So the average yield varies from year to year, this is something that I looked at a bit a few years ago I think. A Japanese anti-whaling activist named Sakuma had implied that there was no such variability in catch and than a decrease in average yield between years indicated that some of the meat was being thrown away.

4) Area of whaling operation. Apparently the Norwegian operations tend to catch younger minkes, so they'll weigh less than fully grown whales, and the Japanese coastal research whaling is conducted in areas where there are high numbers of young whales feeding as well. So the whales are smaller, less meat than perhaps pelagic operations.

So for these reasons (at least?), it's tough to come up with a general average yield of meat.

Thanks for the feedback. When I started this blog and came to take up whaling issues on it I was not so indifferent at all (somewhat upset about the injustice as I see it), and I probably felt similarly to you at the time.

The brain-washing of children to believe that whaling is evil is something I experienced growing up in New Zealand, and it was only with a bit of exposure to Japanese culture from a young age that gave me the sense to question if what I was hearing was true. (Ironically anti-whalers complain about kids getting fed whale meat in Japan, but this is just an obvious parallel with what I grew up being subjected to by the NZ media).

These days after living here for long enough, seeing that whale is on the menu irrespective of the whole political and media circus that revolves around the IWC, I probably have become a lot more indifferent than I once was. Straight forward is pretty much my impression of whale here in Japan. It's a rarity for sure, but essentially it's handled as just another meat or fish - although even the Japanese are confused as to whether they should handle it similarly to beef or similarly to tuna. Whale is usually in the marine products section though.
I saw on the telly a National Geographic program on whales from the Japanese whale market in Tokyo.They said it was impossible for a Westerner to buy whale meat on the market , so IFAW " hired" a Japanese anti whaling activist to buy the whale meat , that was carried to the hotel room to make contamination tests. The IFAW guys carried a portable/ mobile laboratory that could do tests , so you didn't have to brake export regulations???

However , I don't know the result of the tests....
Hi Ann,

National Geographic have sold their souls then, it would seem :)
Another amusing one is the western news articles that talk about how "some of the meat from the research programmes has been found on the open market in Japan".

Either they are just plain ignorant or dishonest, my guess is it's a bit of both.

I see... then I suppose you have much more perspective on this matter than I do; by all accounts NZ's social engineering on anti-whaling is much more mainstream than in the UK.

I used to wonder why there was such a fuss being made about whaling as the news on it is everywhere when the issue crops up.

Then, reading the papers and the BBC, a few years ago it suddenly struck me how little information there was, other than some powerful rhetoric which drew a particular image of wonderful vast ocean and its godly Whale, and those who kill them.

In that format, it's obvious it'd lead to an anti-whaling sentiment. But when you really think about it, about our beef/chicken/pork eating habits, I realized that there was little information on what was actually going on.

One information which really changed me on this matter was about the extinction theory - that it is merely a theory. Some are generally considered to be endangered, but most are far from that from number crunching. I think this information is rationed very carefully in the British media, as to suppress the debate on sustainability; the conclusion becomes obvious if debate turns to sustainability.

Instead, the information revolves around IWC's ban on whaling and Japan's continued research. There is a huge gap in the information we're getting here and this became blindingly obvious to me after a while.

Maybe that's what the anti-whaling camp fears: large numbers of people waking up to this fact. Then it would become considerably harder for the anti to justify their absolute stance. In my view, over here they rely heavily on the "endangered species" argument to win over the public. I was too, till I realized small numbers of whaling won't make any difference, certainly not enough to cause this much fuss.

I'm not a pro-whaling as such either as I have no personal interest in it. I guess you could say I'm indifferent, or anti-anti-whaling; I don't agree that the ban should be in place just because of some individual's sentiments were being shoved down everybody else's throats. There's a hypocrisy in all this.

Recently I heard that we actually have a national policy on anti-whaling in the UK... I couldn't believe it. We actually have a NATIONAL policy on something like that? No wonder information is hard to come by. What's doing this, pressure groups and lobby at the doorstep of our prime minister or something? How did things come around like this do you know? We live in democracy and a society that treasures an open forum for even handed, honest debate. The way it has turned out here, it's so un-British to be like this.
Baldridge: you fell into propaganda trap #1.
There was never a "ban" on commercial whaling; merely a moratorium.
These are very different things which the commercial protest industry purposefully blurs with the assistance of either lazy or willing media.
Yes, alright. 'Ban' isn't the right word; moratorium is. But you know what I mean.

And I disagree that ban vs moratorium is media's "propaganda trap #1". At least here in the UK the propaganda #1 is the extinction theory. You pick any random person walking around and ask them about whales, the 1st thing they'll say is "driven into extinction".

I used to think like that too, till I got a deeper look into this whole affair and realized that whaling is sustainable when you look at Japan's quotas.

It might be different in other countries, but I can assure you one of the biggest reasons why us the British support the "ban" on whaling is the so-called extinction theory. Sentimental argument is less important here as many of us know the irony of mass breeding cows and pigs. It's solely down to the "unsustainable" argument. Ok, so I'm not speaking for everybody, but having come from the "normal" background I can be pretty confident that this is the average view.
Baldridge, Yeah I do know what you mean. I wasn't intentionally trying to sound snarkey. My point is that one can't take any "fact" for granted any more in conservation reporting today.
Most articles are little more than tarted up press releases issued directly from the animal protest industry org relevant to the species in question.
In many cases including this one, Her Majesty's Government have long ago abandoned any kind of pretense at ecologically based impartiality and handed over all policy analysis and formulation directly to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. An organization with a built-in profit motive based on demonization campaigns against people with a preference for one species as food over another.
It's just one more way in which European "Green" politics has been allowed to become dominated by the sheer cash muscle of the animal protest industry.
If ecologically appropriate and socially aware policies are ever to stand a chance the genuine conservationists and green politicians must renounce this appropriation.
Failing this conservation simply becomes defined by whomever controls the biggest PR budget and slickest meme as we saw at the EU on May 5th.
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