Monday, August 13, 2012

Whaling Culture

   Whaling is a controversial topic across the world. However, no matter what your opinion of this practice, it is undeniable that Kochi has a long history of catching and eating whales. I would like to take a quick look at this history to see how important whaling really is to Kochi’s cultural identity.
   Whaling was first recorded in what is now Muroto City around the 1620s. At this time, people would take the opportunity to catch whales only if they strayed close to shore. It was not until 1683 that people would use boats and nets to chase whales.

   This low tech fishing method continued until 1907, when modern automated whaling methods were introduced. However, due to over fishing, all whaling companies went broke by the 1920s. Hence, whaling has a 300 year history in Kochi. All whale meat eaten in Kochi is now from overseas.

   Tosa domain was one area in which eating whale meat was particularly common. It is still eaten as part of New Year’s celebrations, especially in central Kochi. Many people also have fond memories of eating whale meat after WWII when protein was otherwise scarce. Whaling boats and scrolls depicting whaling in Kochi act as reminders of this long-held practice.

   In such a short article, it is impossible to discuss all aspects of whaling in Kochi. However, I believe it is important to know the depth of history behind whaling in Japan before criticizing it out of hand. To do anything less would be to invite anger that could be counterproductive.

Taken from vol.24 PDF

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