Japanese Professor Questions the Existence of Whaling Culture in Japan

Rakuno University Professor Jun Morikawa says that contrary to the claim by the government of Japan, whale meat is not an important part of Japanese culture and there never was a widespread tradition of eating whale meat prior to the end of World War II.

Morikawa is currently in a research fellowship at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

The World Today ran the following interview with Prof Morikawa on Tuesday, July 19, 2005. Morikawa was interviewed by reporter Eleanor Hall.

JUN MORIKAWA: I think many people, I think basically they don't care about it. I mean, the younger generation particularly, they are more environmentally conscious and they do not want to see the whales being killed and be eaten.

ELEANOR HALL: Do the young Japanese people eat whale?

JUN MORIKAWA: I don't think so. They don't want to eat, they love to do instead, whale watching.

ELEANOR HALL: And yet, the Japanese Government says it's appealing on a national interests basis with its whaling policy saying it's protecting a Japanese culinary tradition.

JUN MORIKAWA: Yeah, that's kind of misleading too, because the majority of the towns, cities and people are nothing to do with doing whaling activities. And well, just like after WWII, it's a very difficult time, that period of reconstruction. At that time the Government thought we need something kind of proteins and to feed the people and so they kind of launched. sent ships to Antarctica.

ELEANOR HALL: So you're saying that it arose out of a crisis in food rather than as a delicacy?

JUN MORIKAWA: Yeah, yeah.

ELEANOR HALL: So you're saying there's no long-standing tradition?

JUN MORIKAWA: I agree that there was a kind of whale-meat eating culture, but pretty much localised. It cannot be said it's a national culture.

ELEANOR HALL: So if it's not public pressure, why is the Japanese Government so keen to promote whaling?

JUN MORIKAWA: There was a kind of power structure that existed. They, you know, it's the kind of whaling industry and those who. the politicians who are involved in these fishing industries, the whaling industry and fishing industry, try to pressurise the Government to protect their existing interest.So there is a kind of gap between people in general - they're not very much interested in keeping whaling - and on the other hand there are very few group of people. forces that the main thing is whaling. So there is a kind of. what I term is a kind of manufacturing of national consensus.

ELEANOR HALL: So you're essentially saying that the Japanese Government is captive to the whaling industry. Why would it. I mean, this is a democratically elected government?

JUN MORIKAWA: Well, the fishing industry itself is having a very difficult time and so they need a kind of political power to maintain development. I mean sustain their strength so that they very much rely up on the LDP, Liberal Democratic Party (inaudible). So politicians need a kind of. at the time of election they need a vote and a political donation.