Whaling: American roots of Japanese obsessionBreaking News
Historically, fishermen in coastal towns, like Taiji in southwestern Japan, hunted whales in nearby waters. But things changed after the Commodore Perry’s so-called Black Ships forced an isolationist Japan to open up in the 1850s. Back then, the United States used whale oil lamps, and part of Perry’s mission to Japan was to secure the rights of American whalers in the Pacific.
As whaling became knotted with Japan’s traumatic opening to the world and its subsequent drive to modernize, the Japanese adopted American and Norwegian whaling vessels and techniques. Some coastal towns were transformed into whaling stations, including Ayukawa, when the Toyo Whaling Company started operating here in 1906.
More Japanese, in turn, began eating whale, especially in western Japan. But it was after World War II, when a devastated Japan had few resources, that the American occupation authorities urged that whale meat be offered in classroom lunches nationwide as a cheap source of protein. For the first time, under America’s influence, whale meat became part of Japanese everyday life.