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Tastes for blubber: diversity and locality of whale meat foodways in Japan



Purpose This paper aims to discuss how whale meat foodways in Japan is a local practice, contrary to the prevailing political belief that it is national, and to examine two local whale meat foodways in Japan by focusing on the usage of blubber. To understand complexity of whaling issue, one needs to be careful of species rather than general “whale.” Design/methodology/approach By investigating two kinds of recipe books, one published in the early 19th century and the other the early 20th century on whale meat dish, the paper clarifies blubber has been widely consumed rather than lean meat, and blubber was more important than lean meat as whale meat. Findings The western part of Japan has rich whale meat foodways compared to other parts of Japan. It is because of their history of whaling since the 17th century. They have inherited rich whale meat foodways. Originality/value Although whale sashimi and deep-fried lean meat are popular nationwide regardless of their communities' history, former whaling communities in the western part of Japan developed a preference for blubber, skin, tongue and offal over lean meat. Whale meat foodways in Japan, therefore, is a local heritage. This fact should be the starting point for analyzing Japanese whaling and whale meat foodways.
Tastes for blubber: diversity
and locality of whale meat
foodways in Japan
Jun Akamine
Graduate School of Social Sciences, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, Japan
Purpose This paper aims to discuss how whale meat foodways in Japan is a local practice, contrary to the
prevailing political belief that it is national, and to examine two local whale meat foodways in Japan by focusing
on the usage of blubber. To understand complexity of whaling issue, one needs to be careful of species rather
than general whale.
Design/methodology/approach By investigating two kinds of recipe books, one published in the early
19th century and the other the early 20th century on whale meat dish, the paper clarifies blubber has
been widely consumed rather than lean meat, and blubber was more important than lean meat as
whale meat.
Findings The western part of Japan has rich whale meat foodways compared to other parts of Japan. It is
because of their history of whaling since the 17th century. They have inherited rich whale meat foodways.
Originality/value Although whale sashimi and deep-fried lean meat are popular nationwide regardless of
their communitieshistory, former whaling communities in the western part of Japan developed a preference for
blubber, skin, tongue and offal over lean meat. Whale meat foodways in Japan, therefore, is a local heritage.
This fact should be the starting point for analyzing Japanese whaling and whale meat foodways.
Keywords Cold chains, Coastal whaling, Rapid economic growth, Super whale, Whaling industry
Paper type Research paper
Introduction: challenges to overcome the whaling issue complex
Food culture, as with other aspects of culture, is, on occasion, adopted for political purposes.
One such example is the consumption of whale meat in Japan. The mainly foreign-based
anti-whalingmovement since the 1970s has triggered a domestic backlash that has come to
be called the anti-anti-whalingmovement. This movement has adopted whaling as a
national cause, linked to Japanese tradition and independence and painted the consumption
of whale meat as a national practice, carried out in a uniform way across the country.
This paper will argue that whale meat foodways in Japan are a local practice, contrary to
the prevailing political belief that they are national, and will examine two local whale meat
foodways in Japan by focusing on the usage of blubber. Although whale sashimi and deep-
fried lean meat (tatsuta-age) are popular nationwide, former whaling communities in the
western part of Japan independently developed a preference for blubber, skin, tongue, and
offal over lean meat. Such meat needs to be cooked properly to highlight its unique qualities.
Although people are usually conservative in their food habits, they can adapt to
accommodate even rapid changes (Mintz, 2002, p. 28). For example, sashimi, not only of
whale meat but also of tuna and other marine fish, became popular nationwide only after the
1960s, when temperature-controlled supply chains (cold chains) spread across the Japanese
archipelago (Rath, 2016). The establishment of national cold chains made it easier for
supermarkets to expand their businesses nationwide, which consequently greatly changed
Japanese foodways and the national foodscape. These changes came just as Japan enjoyed
rapid economic growth, at a time when Japanese greatly changed its lifestyles. Consumption
of domesticated animal meat was one such major change. To understand the diversity and
Tastes for
This research was supported in part by JSPS Kakenhi grants JP15H02617 and JP19H00555.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 7 February 2020
Revised 11 March 2020
Accepted 18 May 2020
Asian Education and Development
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/AEDS-02-2020-0027
locality of whale meat foodways in contemporary Japan, one needs to understand the local
context vis-
a-vis whaling history.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, the whale meat
supply in the Japanese market was 4,000 tons in 2016. Thus, the average per capita annual
consumption of whale meat that year was 31.5 g. The amount is small compared with those of
pork (19.7 kg), chicken (18.3 kg), beef (9.5 kg) and seafood (45.6 kg) (MAFF, 2018). Based on
the annual consumption of whale meat per capita, whale meat consumption can never be
considered to be a Japanese national culture. The picture becomes much clearer if one
compares the current volume with that of in 1962, when whale consumption reached its peak
in Japan at 233,000 tons. Individual consumption of whale meat was 2.7 kg that year, while the
per capita consumption of other meat was smaller: pork was 2.3 kg, while chicken and beef
were 1.2 kg.
However, the above numbers are national averages, which cannot capture regional
differences. According to a survey conducted in 2008 by Kyodo Senpaku, a company that
provided factory ship and catcher boats for Special Permit Whaling, the top five
prefectures for annual consumption per capita of whale meat were Nagasaki (197 g), Saga
(168 g), Miyagi (148 g), Yamaguchi (133 g) and Fukuoka (120 g) (Kyodo Senpaku Inc., 2008).
With the exception of Miyagi Prefecture, all of these prefectures were home to whaling
bases since the 17th century. These four prefectures face the East China Sea and the
southwestern part of the Japan Sea, which is known as the Saikai (western sea) whaling
ground in Japanese whaling history. On the other hand, Miyagi Prefecture presently has an
active base for coastal whaling. The survey indicates that even today, long after coastal
whaling has ceased, whale meat is consumed mostly in the communities that practice or
have practiced whaling. This indicates that whale meat foodways in Japan are a local
heritage. This fact should be the starting point for analyzing Japanese whaling and whale
meat foodways.
This paper first illustrates the diversity of Japanese whaling to criticize the imaginary
super whaleand reverse super whaleconcepts. There are over 80 species of cetacean, and
the relationships between individual whale species and human beings continuously changes
along with the environment in which they occur. Japanese Antarctic whaling is a good
example. It began with the intention to search for whale oil, but transformed into meat-
orientated production over time. The second part of this paper explores the historical roots of
whale meat foodways in Japan, which can be traced back to the 17th century, when
traditional whalingflourished in the western part of Japan. The third part reviews whale
meat foodways in the 1920s, 20 years after the introduction of modern whaling in Japan. The
paper concludes with a discussion of how the emergence of supermarkets nationwide has
changed the landscape of whale meat foodways.
Beyond the super whale and reverse super whale discourse
In the early 1990s, a Norwegian anthropologist Arne Kalland coined the term super whale
to describe claims that conveniently combined different cetaceanscharacteristics into one
imaginary anthropomorphic creature, the whale. He wrote:
Environmental and animal welfare activists often speak about the whale in the singular. We are told
that the whale is the worlds largest animal, that it has the worlds largest brain, that its brain is large
in comparison to body weight, that it is social and friendly, that it sings, that it has its own child care
system, and that it is threatened, etc. It is true that the blue whale is the worlds largest animal and
that the sperm whale has the worlds largest brain (although it is small in comparison to the animals
size), but most of the other assertions are difficult to prove. Those that do hold some truth are rarely
true for more than one or two of the more than 75 different whale species which exist. When one
speaks about the whale they are combining all the characteristics found among the various species,
such that the whale has them all. But such a whale does not exist; it is a mythical creation, a super
whale, which is also given human traits (Kalland, 1994, p. 7).
Kalland highlighted the diversity of cetaceans and their possible multiple relations to human
beings (Cotterrell and Gray, 1998;Mullin, 1999). There are two types of whales: baleen whales
are those without any teeth, in contrast to the toothed whales. The former has only 14 species,
while the latter includes all dolphins, porpoises and pilot whales. Among the oils and fats
collected from cetaceans, those generally collected from baleen whales are called whale oil,
which is distinguished from the sperm oilmade from toothed whales. For instance, while
whale oil is a fat (a glyceride of a fatty acid), sperm oil has a different composition similar to
wax (Tønnessen and Johnsen, 1982, pp. 7-228). Both can be used as lighting and lubricants,
but sperm oil is not suitable for human food because of its waxy composition. Meat from
baleen whales is slightly reddish and does not have a particularly strong taste or smell. On the
other hand, meat from toothed whales is darker in color and has a distinct gamy flavor. In
Japan, whale meatgenerally refers to the meat of the baleen whale.
Contrary to Kallands critique, advocates of Japanese whaling, who claim that whale meat
foodways is a Japanese tradition, tend to fall into a simplified view toward whaling. This has
been called a reverse super whalediscourse (Akamine, 2019), whose imaginary tradition of
whale meat consumption is a mesh of several facts that disregard species, time, location and
scale. For example, arguments in support of this tradition assert that whale consumption can
be traced back to the inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago who hunted cetaceans several
thousand years; that in the 17th century, many professional whaling parties were established
in Japan, which utilized almost all the parts of the whales they caught; and that such whalers
would build tombs and hold memorial services for the whales, etc.
Each claim is independently true. However, there are distinct differences depending on the
whale species involved and its relation to the people that interact with it. According to the
Institute of Cetacean Research, 40 species of cetaceans in eight families appear in the waters
around Japan (Institute of Cetacean Research, 2007); approximately half of all cetaceans that
exist globally. The inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago, surrounded by both warm and
cold currents, have long had many opportunities to hunt and interact with whales. As is
evident from the Mawaki ruins in the Noto Peninsula (Ishikawa Prefecture), the inhabitants of
the Japanese archipelago have been hunting cetaceans for over 6,000 years. The Mawakians
specifically targeted two small species, the Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus
obliquidens) and short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), as well as occasionally
hunting bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and pilot whales. A local study found that
the two main species composed 91% of a total of 286 excavated skulls. Archeological
evidence indicates that these dolphins were systematically hunted in a group when they
seasonally migrated close to the shore (Mawaki Iseki, n.d.).
Species matter in regard to whaling methods. Japanese whaling can be divided into
traditional whalingor pre-modern whaling,which flourished during the Tokugawa period
(16031868), and modern whaling,which was introduced to Japan in the late 19th century and
established only after the Russo-Japanese War (19041905). The former is a more passive
whaling technique because whalers had to wait for whales to come close to the coast. The latter,
on the other hand, is more active, in the sense that whalers actively searched for whales in the
Pacific Ocean with motorized vessels. Ayukawa in Miyagi Prefecture, havingeasy access to the
local rip current between the cold and warmcurrents offshore, was one of Japans first modern
whaling bases, established in 1906. While traditional whaling developed in the western part of
Japan, modern whaling became popular in the eastern part of Japan. Due to its technical
limitations, the traditional whaling method was more commonly used to hunt four species:
North Pacific right whales (Eubalaena japonica), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae),
gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Fin whales
Tastes for
(Balaenoptera physalus), sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) and Brydeswhales(Balaenoptera
brydei) were rarely caught. On the other hand, the modern whaling method was able to target
the larger rorquals, such as, blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and fin whales.
Product also matters. Whaling, either traditional or modern, is a capitalist industry that
produces whale oil and whale meat. Thus, a discussion of the pros and cons of whaling must
pay attention to oil production as well. It becomes clear that whaling for oil and whaling for
meat should be distinguished when viewed within the context of the Norwegian history of
whaling. In Norway, where modern whaling was invented in the 1860s, larger rorquals, such
as blue whales and fin whales, were hunted in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans to produce
whale oil as a global commodity. Smaller cetaceans were also hunted for the domestic meat
market (Tønnessen and Johnsen, 1982, p. 645). In the case of Japanese whaling, both whale oil
and meat were produced from operations in coastal waters, the Antarctic Ocean and in the
North Pacific Ocean, which makes the story of Japanese whaling history complicated and
easily misleading. The economic value of whale oil began to decrease as alternative products
were developed, and whale stocks themselves declined. This caused many countries to scale
down their fleets: the UK and the Netherlands stopped whaling completely in the early 1960s,
while Norway withdrew from Antarctic whaling by the end of the decade. Japan, along with
the Soviet Union, were rare exceptions of nations that continued to whale during the period.
Japanese Antarctic whaling even thrived in the 1960s.
Figure 1 illustrates the number of baleen whale species caught by the Japanese Antarctic
whaling fleets and the production of baleen whale oil and meat. The blue whale, which was
almost endangered because of over-exploitation, is the symbolic icon of Antarctic whaling
Minke Whale
Sei Whale
Humpback Whale
Fin Whale
Blue Whale
Baleen Whale Oil (1,000t)
Whale Meat (1,000t)
1,000tnumber of whales caught
Source(s): Sakuramoto et al. eds. (1991, pp. 240-254) and Tado ed. (1985, pp. 175-178)
Figure 1.
Baleen Whales Caught
by Japanese Antarctic
Whaling Expeditions
by species and
Production of Baleen
Whale Oil (mt), Whale
Meat (mt)
(Gambell, 1977). However, Figure 1 indicates that the main species targeted by Japanese
Antarctic whaling in the post-war period were actually the fin and sei whales. Fin whales
were the main species caught for 14 years between the seasons of 1950/1951 and 1963/1964.
After that, sei whales became more predominant until the 1972/1973 season. Full-scale
commercial whaling of minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean only began during the 1971/1972
season. Figure 1 indicates targets of Japanese Antarctic whaling shifted from larger species
with more blubber to smaller species with less blubber, which made production of oil
uneconomic. As Japan had a domestic whale meat market, Japan was able to transform its
operations from oil production to meat production. This transformation created a whale-
eater nationmyth among Japanese whaling enthusiasts, which resulted in the reverse super
whaleconcept. It can be said that the super whaleand reverse super whalemyths are
twins, born from unscientific and non-historical attitudes that ignore the diversity of whales
and whaling history.
The zenith of the Japanese whale meat foodways
In the 16th century, organized whale hunting methods were developed in the western part of
the Japanese archipelago, followed by the creation of the kujira-gumi (specialist whaling
parties or groups). There were four centers for such pre-modern whaling: Kishu (current
Wakayama Prefecture), Doshu (current Kochi Prefecture), Choshu (current Yamaguchi
Prefecture) and Saikai area (current Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Kumamoto Prefectures)
(Arch, 2018;Kalland and Moeran, 1992). The kujira-gumi had a strict division of labor, with
about 400600 crew members aboard whaling boats, and another 200 to 300 workers on land
(Torisu, 1993, pp. 14-17).
In the 17th century, whales, whale products and whaling began to be documented and
recorded in various forms (Morita, 1994, p. 210). This is illustrated not only in secret recipe
books distributed among the nobility, but in Japans very first publicly issued cookbook,
Ryori Monogatari (Cooking Story) (Anonymous, 1643). The book introduces recipes using
lean meat for soups, sashimi, marinated dishes as well as recipes using intestines (Hirano,
1988, p. 14). These cooking techniques were not developed merely for the pursuit of luxurious
gourmet cuisines and delicious tastes. A scholarly approach was used to study the structures
of various food ingredients in Japan. One pioneering work was the 12-volume Honcho
Shokkan (Food Encyclopedia of our Country) published in 1695. This is not a translation of
Chinese medicine, but rather a collection of scientific reflections on individual Japanese food
ingredients. Honcho Shokkan can be considered as the first step toward the development of
Japanese medicine. This was very significant, especially in relation to whales, because whales
were not consumed in China (Shimada, 1981, pp. 170-171). Honcho Shokkan describes the
ecologies of six whale species: North Pacific right whales, humpback whales, gray whales, fin
whales, sei whales and sperm whales. From the detailed descriptions, one can understand
that the author investigated these whale species himself.
Knowledge about whales and whale meat was eventually consolidated in the Geiniku
Chomikata, a whale cookbook published in 1832. This book is often mentioned in literature
concerning Japanese whaling history, but it was not actually a separate publication. Rather, it
was published as an appendix to the Isanatori Ekotoba (WhalersIllustrated Story), which
illustrates the whaling methods of the Masutomi-gumi, based in Hirado, present Nagasaki
Prefecture and the largest whaling party in those days. The Geiniku Chomikata is an
encyclopedia of whale meat foodwaysthat divides whales into 70 parts and introduces
recipes foreach. Each part is introduced with a description of its appropriate thickness and size,
and whether it should be eaten raw or salted. Some parts include different recipes for both raw
and salted preparations. As salt preservation was the most common way of preserving whale
meat at that time, desalinating methods are described in detail for each part: using hot water or
lukewarm water or splashing with hot water and then rinsing with cold water.
Tastes for
One cannot help but be amazed at the extent of whale meat knowledge shared in this
volume. However, this is not surprising if one considers the rich knowledge environment in
the early 19th century and recalls that the Geiniku Chomikata was not meant to be only a
whale cookbook but was a supplement to the Isanatori Ekotoba. In the late 18th century,
intellectual gourmet books flourished in Japan. For example, Tofu Hyakuchin (Tofu
Encyclopedia), published in 1782, is an interesting book because of its attempt to enjoy tofu
cooking intellectually. The book was innovative in its focus on one dish tofu and
demonstrated 100 (hyaku) types of recipes. It also attempted to satisfy intellectual tastes, by
providing profound knowledge on tofu, including writings, Japanese waka and haiku poetry,
Chinese poetry and even Chinese literature. Starting with Tofu Hyakuchin, encyclopedic
cookbooks that focus on a comprehensive description of one ingredient became popular: one
for red seabream (1785), sweet potato (1789), pike eel (1795) and konjac (1846) (Harada, 1989).
When the Geiniku Chomikata is assessed within the context of such an intellectual
environment, one can understand how the book influenced the development of whale meat
foodways during that period. However, it is important to note that most whale meat was
consumed in the western part of Japan, while tofu and other hyakuchin foods were consumed
Japanese whale meat foodways in the 1920s
In 1919, Murakami Ryukichi, the top bureaucrat for Japans fisheries policy, contributed an
article on popularizing whale meat to a womens magazine (Murakami, 1919). In that article,
he allowed that whale meat consumption in the Kanto area (in and around Tokyo) was recent
and tried to promote whale meat consumption in the eastern part of Japan because modern
whaling method had been introduced in Japan, producing more whale meat than ever before.
Recipes of home-cooked food from across Japan during the 1920s were published in Fifty
Volumes of the Collections of Japanese Foodways (Nobunkyo ed., 19841993). The Collections
covered all 47 prefectures and one indigenous ethnic minority, the Ainu in Hokkaido. Each
volume, based on extensive oral histories, contains both food that was prepared for everyday
use, as well as for special occasions such as New Years celebrations. The Collections reveal
that 27 of the 47 prefectures had at least one kind of whale meat dish (Figure 2). Saga
Prefecture listed 16 varieties of whale dishes, followed by Yamaguchi and Fukuoka (12
dishes), Wakayama (nine dishes) and Nagasaki and Hyogo (eight dishes). The prefectures,
except Hyogo, marked by darker gray in Figure 2, are the ones where traditional whaling
parties were once active. Note that Saga, Fukuoka and Nagasaki locate in the Saikai whaling
zone, and Yamaguchi (former Choshu) locates adjacent to the Saikai zone. As Murakami
briefly mentioned in his article, one can deduce that people in these places not only consume a
high volume of whale meat, but also consume this whale meat in a variety of ways.
The Collections describes recipes from the time before the Japanese ventured into
Antarctic whaling in the mid-1930s, when whale meat was obtained only through coastal
whaling. It was also at a time when nearly all foodstuffs in Japan were produced and
consumed locally, and diet and food production remained more similar to the 19th century
than to the postwar era (Rath, 2015, p. 145). In addition, it was before the refrigerator became
commonplace, which is probably the reason most of the whale meat and blubber in The
Collections were salted. In this sense, the conditions seem similar to those of the Geiniku
Comikata from almost a century earlier, which describes desalination methods in detail.
If one scans the recipes of The Collections, one notices that salted blubber (shio-kujira) was
mainly prepared through two different methods: as shiru (soup) or as nimono (boiled with soy
sauce). In prefectures facing the Japan Sea and northeast Japan, salted blubber was often used
for making soup stock. The dish is called kujira-jiru (whale soup) flavored with blubber and
miso (fermented soybean paste). Such prefectures are shaded by slanted lines in Figure 2.
It should be noted people in these regions seldom consumed lean meat, but particularly prefer
blubber instead. The kujira-jiru consumers can be divided into two groups: those that prefer
kujira-jiru in winter and those that prefer it in summer. The former include Hokkaido, Aomori
Prefecture, Tottori Prefecture and Shimane Prefecture. In these prefectures, kujira-jiru is a
must for celebrating New Year. On the other hand, people from Akita, Yamagata and Niigata
Prefectures believe that kujira-jiru is a must after a summers day of hard work in the paddy
fields. As shown in Figure 2, whale meat foodways in the Saikai whaling zone (Saikai area
plus Choshu district) have a huge variety of recipes and utilize almost all parts of the whale,
including blubber, skin and offal. However, strangely enough, kujira-jiru recipes cannot be
found in the Saikai whaling zone. The Collections reveal that in the Saikai whaling zone,
blubber was often used instead as a condiment for cooking vegetables. Even though there are
differences between shiru and nimono as a form of cooking, blubber played an important role
in both dishes by providing a rich taste unique to other ingredients.
Whale meat foodways in Japan can be summarized as follows. There are three types of
whale meat consumption communities: (1) those that utilize almost all the parts of the whale
such as in the Saikai whaling zone, (2) those that exclusively prefer blubber and (3) those that
rarely consume whale meat. The emergence of the first community is easy to understand
because of its rich history in whaling. The reason the second community emergesis not clear at
this moment. Perhaps, this is due to the few whaling parties and difficulty of getting fresh lean
meat. These areas, except Fukushima Prefecture, face the Japan Sea and had busy ports during
the Tokugawa period resulting from the trade betweenEzo (southern Hokkaido) and Nagasaki
(the only port for foreign trades at that time). Salted blubber was likely easily sourced through
such maritime trade, thus inspiring the development of local kujira-jiru cuisine.
Conclusion: regional culinary practice embedded in local history
This paper briefly explored the history of Japans whale meat foodways, including those
during the Tokugawa period, the peak of Japans whale meat culture, both as the Japanization
Figure 2.
Map of Whale Meat
Tastes for
of Chinese medicine and in the context of intellectual curiosity that sought food information
as represented in the hyakuchin culture. Traditional whaling prospered only in the western
part of Japan. Thus, even though information on whales and whale meat was spread widely,
it is likely that only a limited number of individuals in the eastern part of Japan knew the
tastes of whale meat. The situation seems similar even after modern whaling methods were
introduced into Japan at the end of the 19th century, and more whale meat was produced than
ever before. Whale meat finally became nationalizedonly after the Second World War,
when large portion of the Japanese population suffered from hunger. Deep-fried whale lean
meat, called tatsuta-age, became popular nationwide through its use in school lunches.
Thus, whale meat not only saved many Japanese from starvation but also introduced a
distinct, rich taste for those that consumed it. In postwar Japan, the US Occupation pushed
the population to consume more edible oil, especially soybean oil produced in the USA. This
led to the acceptance of fried chicken and other meat dish after the 1960s (Ehara et al., 2009,
pp. 306-307). When the Japanese economy recovered, domestic livestock became common.
Cooking shows on TV and culinary features in magazines provided a wide varieties of new
This was during the time known for rapid economic growth period in Japan. The
establishment of cold chain helped foodways to transform. The establishment of national
cold chains made it easier for supermarkets to expand their businesses nationwide, which
consequently greatly changed the Japanese foodways and foodscape. Supermarkets sell
only certain selected cuts of meat, as is well-known in the case of pork and beef. For
whale meat, supermarkets tended to sell only lean meat and salted unesu (the accordion-
like fatty portion of baleen whales from the lower jaw to the navel). Lean meat could be
easily consumed as sashimi because of the introduction of cold chains at this time.
Sashimi, either from fish or whale, became popular after these national cold chains were
established in the 1960s. Even those who were not familiar with raw whale meat probably
encountered whale meat sashimi in the same context that they had consumed raw fish
In this sense, the two whale meat dishes currently popular in Japan, tatsuta-age and
sashimi, are new phenomena. They are part of Japanese whale meat foodways, but they
represent only a fraction of it. While these dishes use only lean meat, there are rich local food
cultures using blubber in Japan, as this paper has shown. In the Saikai whaling zone,
specialty shops for whale meat, but not supermarkets, still sell various parts of whale. Whale
meat is consumed both at home and in restaurants, and customers can choose their favorite
parts to eat. Currently, the most common way of eating blubber in the western part of Japan
is to eat it sliced and sandwiched between slices of lean meat as sashimi. The sweetness and
chewy texture of blubber go well with the moist texture of the lean meat. The white and red
color combination are also appealing. At a retail shop in Fukuoka, I once observed many
customers who bought whale meat for New Years celebration at home when family
members got together. Whale meat consumption is more of a regional culinary practice
entangled with local history, rather than a local tradition in the context of national
The discussion of Japanese foodways has been dominated by broad concepts such as
washoku from a heritage perspective and sashimi and sushi as driven in the mass media (Rath,
2016). Whale meat sashimi is even driven in part by the domestic reaction to the international
anti-whaling discourse. In fact, all such dishes were made possible through the establishment
of national cold chains in the 1960s, and such representations provide an oversimplified
representation of Japanese foodways. Understanding the diversity of whale meat foodways
allows one to rethink the concept of regional tastes that have been passed down in the
communities over the past few centuries. People not only treasure the taste of such foods, but
also the memories associated with them.
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Management of Cetaceans), KoseisyaKoseikaku, Tokyo, (in Japanese).
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Suisansya, Tokyo, (in Japanese).
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Conference Paper
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The main objective of this paper is to raise awareness about coastal whaling along the Japanese archipelago, and to identify whale-meat foodways in Japan in order to illustrate how these foodways have a regional-and not a national-heritage. Though special permit whaling (SPW) conducted in the Antarctic Ocean by Japan has attracted significant attention, there are three types of legitimate commercial activities in Japan: small-type coastal whaling with whaling guns for Baird's beaked and pilot whales, spear-hunting for some species of dolphins and pilot whales, and driving-hunting for some species of dolphins and pilot whales. Minke-whale meat caught through SPW is distributed nationwide, but the meat of cetaceans caught through the three commercial methods is distributed and consumed only in specific regions of Japan. While the driving-hunting practice attracted extensive media attention after the release of the film The Cove in 2009, the two other activities are relatively unknown and unstudied. 1 This paper will illustrate the diversity of whaling in Japan to criticize the "super whale" and "reverse super whale" concepts. It will explain the diversity of whale-meat foodways in different regions of Japan and briefly detail this through a case study of Baird's beaked whale (Berardius bairdii) whaling in Chiba Prefecture. The habitat of this unique species is limited to the area of the eastern coast of the Japanese archipelago and its meat and blubber are consumed exclusively in these regions. Beyond a Super Whale Myth In the early 1990s, Norwegian anthropologist Arne Kalland coined the term "super whale" to describe claims that conveniently combined characteristics of various species of cetaceans into one imaginary creature. He wrote: 1 Coastal whaling is regulated by the central government and is currently authorized in five ports: Abashiri and Hakodate (Hokkaido Prefecture), Ayukawa (Miyagi Prefecture), Wada (Chiba Prefecture), and Taiji (Wakayama Prefecture). As of 2018, the maximum catch per year is 66 Baird's beaked whales; 72 short-finned pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus: 36 from northern stocks and 36 from southern stocks; and 20 false killer whales, Pseudorca crassidens.
Local food is a concept that seems to define itself: the ingredients available for consumption in a given zone in contrast to foodstuffs that are either ubiquitous or are found in different places. Discovering local foods would appear to be as easy as following the contours of a map or simply drawing new boundaries. But in Japan the category of “local food” has a history as a way of recounting the points of contact between diet, place, and identity that not only is quite recent but also reveals how what designates a local food is more than simply the ingredients in a particular place but also a project of national and even transnational culinary politics.
1. Whales, Whaling and Japan 2. Japanese Whaling Communities 3. Portraits 4. The History of Japanese Whaling 5. Work Organization of Whaling 6. Recruitment and Career Patterns 7. Local Whaling Culture 8. Whaling Culture and Whaling Companies 9. The Impacts of the Moratorium Appendices. Bibliography, Index.
Abstract Humans' relationships with animals, increasingly the subject of controversy, have long been of interest to those whose primary aim has been the better understanding of humans' relationships with other humans. Since this topic was last reviewed here, human-animal relationships have undergone considerable reexamination, reflecting key trends in the history of social analysis, including concerns with connections between anthropology and colonialism and with the construction of race, class, and gender identities. There have been many attempts to integrate structuralist or symbolic approaches with those focused on environmental, political, and economic dimensions. Human-animal relationships are now much more likely to be considered in dynamic terms, and consequently, there has been much interdisciplinary exchange between anthropologists and historians. Some research directly engages moral and political concerns about animals, but it is likely that sociocultural research on human-animal relationships will continue to be as much, if not more, about humans.
To many observers, the moratorium on commercial whaling, which came into force under the aegis of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, is both a moral and an environmental victory. Moreover, many governments have found it to be an advantageous, easy and costless policy to support. However, a critical analysis of the diverse viewpoints of IWC member states, especially those expressed by the delegations of the United Kingdom, Norway and Japan at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the IWC in Aberdeen, raises doubts about the moral and practical coherence of the arguments supporting the continuation of the moratorium. In this paper, these doubts will be rehearsed, and an alternative policy to that of the moratorium—sustainable resource management—is put forward as founded on a more coherent moral and practicable basis.
Gross overcatching of whales in the Antarctic resulted in a series of international agreements in the 1930s designed primarily to control oil output and so to ensure a stable market. These agreements led to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in 1946. The interests of the industry were paramount in setting catch quotas, so that the major stocks were seriously depleted. A more conservative approach initiated in 1965 has led to the present management policy of the IWC which is aimed at bringing all whale stocks to the levels providing the maximum sustainable long-term yields. The author analyses the issues and implications surrounding these developments.
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Harada, N. (1989), Edo No Ry orishi: Ry oribon to Ryori Bunka (Food History During Edo: Cookbooks and Culinary Culture), Chuokoronsha, Tokyo, (in Japanese).
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