Since olden days, human beings have lived alongside whales, the world’s largest ocean mammals.
Whales appear in the myths of many peoples, and from ancient times when looking up at the night sky people have seen bright constellations that reminded them of whales. The inhabitants of maritime communities have also relied on whales as a source of food to sustain them. The existence of whales has even played a role in the development of the cultures of many countries.
In Japan, archaeological remains show that people were consuming whale meat as far back as the Jomon Period, which is traditionally dated from roughly 14,000 to 300 BCE. Later, during the Edo Period (1603-1868) whales were worshipped as embodied deities whose existence was a blessing for people. In fact, there was a popular saying, “A catch of one whale enriches seven seaside communities.” Such was the value of a single animal.
Japan decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the end of June 2019 and resume commercial whaling in Japan’s coastal waters for the first time in 31 years beginning in July. To coincide with these steps and explain its views, the Institute of Cetacean Research has launched the website Kujira to Ningen (“Whales and Humans”).
The goal of the website is to provide a forum to review from various angles the ties that have been forged between whales and human beings since ancient times, and to consider the ways human beings may interact with whales in the future.