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Japan & Whaling

The activity related to whaling culture in Japan is dated back to the 12th century. Fukumoto (1960) distinguishes this development of the whaling culture into distinctive phases. In the initial first phase dating between 12 and 16th century, the overall whaling culture in Japan had not yet been established as a business operation. At this time, whales were hunted using bows and ordinary fishing nets. The exercise resulted to more whales being killed and the wounded were all caught while drifting near the seashores. This form of whaling exercise is popularly referred to as the passive whaling that is definitely different from active whaling for which hunters pursued and captured healthy whales. Japan started engaging in active whaling in the 1890s where whale consumption increased significantly resulting to development of whaling-related businesses. The significant increase in the level of this exercise was highly attributed to the consumption of whales especially immediately after the devastation experienced in the course of World War 2 (Hirata, 2000). In the course of the mid-1930s, there were three distinctive forms of whaling been exercised throughout the entire Japan that included large-type coastal whaling (LTCW), pelagic whaling and, also small-type coastal whaling (STWC).

In overall, the entire Japanese-focused whaling operations were conducted with the regulation of the different government-based agencies. The regulations of the process relied on the application of licenses; quotas seasonal limitations, hunting grounds; specific species of whales; the overall size of the whale and the adoption of technologies in the exercise (Hirata, 2000). It is important to note that the government has further defined numerous forms of whaling that were being exercised in Japan, which could later be broken down into unique components that portrayed the stages involved with the overall production (Hirata, 2000).

Japan is the widely-known country that supports whaling as a whole. For a significant number of decades, Tokyo has remained steadfast in regards to its right to practice whaling and thus, engaged in extensive lobbying within the International Whaling Commission for the purpose of resuming overall commercial-based whaling (Hirata, 2000). In essence, the country’s pro-whaling position has resulted to intensive international criticism from both environmental-based agencies as well as numerous Western governments; many of which now perceive Tokyo as being an obstruction for the international efforts to protect whales (Hirata, 2000). However; Japan gives pro-whaling exercise is expounded in numerous ways that include;

A materialist approach, which is a famous domestic-level approach relating to Japanese diplomacy as being a business-centred one. This business-centred explanation ascertains that the close state-business operations relationships foster the many of the Japanese business platforms to prevail in the entire political decision-making undertakings (Hirata, 2000). Considering the fact that there have been intensive measures put forth by the IWC, Tokyo’s whaling sector has been significantly downscaled. In fact, as a result of this downscaling, unlike in the past; today the company is only focused on two whaling firms. One of the types is made up of 8 smaller firms that include; Toba Hogei and Miyoshi Hogei (Hirata, 2000). These two firms are majorly focused on coastal-based whaling exercise, which means that they hunt whale species that are not a subject of the ICRW. The other one is made up of the government’s scientific whaling initiatives that are executed by Kydo Senpaku (Hirata, 2000).

The country’s support for whaling exercise is also a result of its domestic cultural and political structures. It is crucial to note that the current anti-whaling crusaders in Japan are restricted by two distinctive factors that include; an enormous divide that exists between the international norm and overall domestic cultural values that make it a challenge to produce public support for the whaling restrictions (Hirata, 2000). It is also hampered by the underlying domestic political frameworks that is fairly much represented by bureaucratic actors that cannot avail political opportunities that would support anti-whaling crusaders.

The domestic cultural framework of Japan highly defines its adoption of the whaling exercise and international degree of diffusion likely depends on the overall cultural attributes of a given society as well the pre-established values of domestic framework. In the case of Japan, the distinguishing feature that exists between international-based acceptance as well as domestic values is deemed to be substantial in nature. In fact, researches conducted in Japan indicate that most of the locals perceive the entire whaling exercise as a matter of cultural importance. Of particular interest to note, Japanese overall attitudes and beliefs in regards to whaling is based on three viewpoints; the first being that Japan has been eating whale since time immemorial. Gyoshoku bunka; is a Japanese belief that they have a right to engage in whale-eating culture without any form of infringements meaning that they do not perceive it as an exercise adopted immediately after world War II to feed the impoverished in the society. It thus means that Japan perceives the preparation and consumption of whale as a national cuisine and an expression of cultural identity (Kalland, 1989). Second, whales are perceived as a form of fish as opposed to an animal. Third, the Japanese make sure to engage in the practice as a way of preventing possible Western interferences in its overall indigenous attributes.

In essence, Japan’s reliance on whaling policing can be further expounded using the country’s domestic political frameworks, which focuses on preventing environmentalists from assuming any part in decision-making processess (Kalland, 1989). The political framework is deemed to be highly centralized with intensive bureaucratic leadership models that prevent possible diffusion of support for ant-whaling exercise. In truth, whaling is considered to be a fishery activity as the Fisheries Agency, which is supervised by the MAFF ensures to regulate the whaling exercise as a whole.

To sum up, whaling culture in Japan is deemed to be a matter of cultural identity as opposed to a form of feeding program. Japan domestic political framework is deemed to be the core agency that has resulted to continual whaling process over a long period of time. Certainly noted in the paper is the fact that Japan perceives whales as being a type of specific fish as opposed to being a mammal.


Fukumoto, K. (1960). Nihon hogeishi-wa (History of Japanese Whaling). Tokyo: Hosei University Press.

Hirata, K. (2000). Why Japan Supports Whaling, Journal of International Wildlife and Policy, 1-23

Kalland, A. (1989). The Spread of Whaling Culture in Japan. Report prepared for Cetacean Institute of Japan.