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In Chiba Prefecture’s Minamiboso, Fighting to Save Coastal Whaling Traditions

Locals are fighting to preserve their coastal whaling traditions by introducing new dishes and creating a healthy balance of demand and supply.

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There was a time when whale meat was so common in Japan that we almost expected it to be a part of every meal. But this changed from the late 1980s, when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a moratorium on commercial whaling. Since then the overall whale market has declined. 

In 2019, Japan left the IWC and restarted commercial whaling for the first time in 31 years, but a long road remains for the revival of this part of our food culture. 

In the city of Minamiboso in Chiba Prefecture, home to the closest active whaling port to Tokyo, a whaling company and whale restaurants are working to build stable businesses and popularize whale delicacies once again.

Traditional Japanese coastal cuisine on the menu at Piman, featuring rice, miso soup, small vegetable dishes and tatsuta-age fried whale meat. Photo by Shinji Ono. ©Sankei

Organized whaling in Minamiboso has a long, proud history, dating from the 17th Century in the nearby town of Katsuyama (now part of the town of Kyonan). “It’s a small-scale business, but people should know that there is still a world where we hear ‘Delicious!’ when we divvy up the meat for people to eat. We want to keep going somehow,” said Yoshinori Shoji, the president of Gaibo Whaling.

Baird’s beaked whales were not actually part of the IWC moratorium, and had been caught locally before Japan exited the organization and revived commercial whaling. But demand for the whales is limited to the Minamiboso region. 

The Boso Peninsula region has a unique personality of a type not seen in the city. I hope you can make the journey.

You can read the rest of this story and learn more about the popularity of whaling and whale cuisine in the small whaling community of Chiba Prefecture’s Minamiboxo at this link. This article was first published by Whaling Today on February 17, 2022. Check out Whaling Today for deeper and unique insights into Japanese whaling culture, whale conservation efforts and sustainable whaling.

Read the article in Japanese at this link.

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(This article is published in cooperation with the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan. Let us hear your thoughts in our comments section.)


Author: Shinji Ono