Ayukawahama is a small whaling and fishing village located about 200 miles north of Tokyo. It was hit by the tsunami and experienced tremendous destruction, so much that it currently can no longer function as a whaling center. Ayukawa Whaling is the only whaling company left in the village of 1,400 but the tsunami moved their three whale hunting ships miles down the coast and left them grounded. There is currently no quick way to get them back in the water and functioning. Their whale meat processing factory was destroyed, as were their offices. The company’s chairman had to lay off all 28 employees. He wants to rebuild the company in time for the fall whaling hunt, but admitted it was unlikely to happen. Of course they will miss the April hunt, when they would have been able to take 50 minke whales which is allowed for “research” purposes, but eating whale-meat stew could hardly be called a scientific experiment.
The company can’t afford to move their hunting ships from their grounded locations to water without financial aid from the government. The whaling company’s chairman who is 74 said, “If we can fix the ships, then we’re back in business and should not be afraid, because another tsunami like that won’t come for another 100 years.” (Source: Staradvertiser.com) His father was a whaler, so it must be very difficult to let go of a business that has been in the family for decades, and is so interwoven into the local culture. Of course, in 100 years the village may not even exist any more because many of the residents are old, and may not live even thirty years. Whaling has been declining in Japan due to shifting cultural attitudes, meaning the young people are not nearly as interested in eating whale meat.
The government has been propping up the whaling industry there, and even giving free whale meat to school children to promote it. In January a similar whale meat promotion also did not fare well. They tried to sell meat from Minke whales, humpback whales, and sperm whales at half price. Also free whale meat stew was given away, but it mainly drew interest from about 100 seniors.
One of the Japanese whaling defenders said, “We will pass down the history of our ancestors to the next generation, preserve it. We have a strong sense of pride about this. So we are not going to change our plans for the town based on the criticism of foreigners.” (Source: weirdasiannews.com)
Some Japanese men go to the extent of dressing in red loincloths and chasing a mechanized whale for an annual whale festival. Most of the sentiment regarding a revival of whaling in the tiny town is coming from older males who are at retirement age, or are already retired.
While the disaster in Japan is tragic, and the loss of much of the whaling village is also, it must be said that many whales are now better off, as they won’t die to continue an absurdly out of touch and very destructive, pointless tradition.
Recently anti-whaling activists foiled a big Japanese whaling hunt and saved the lives of many whales. Will the whaling industry in Japan ever finally die out? It is looking more that way today.
Image Credit: Leptictidium