Isn’t totalitarianism from either the left or the right the common enemy of democratic countries and their citizens?
Joining hands and close cooperation are needed to battle this common enemy. Yet, the people and leaders of democratic countries that have been vocal in opposing whaling are themselves leaning dangerously toward an attitude of totalitarianism when they attempt to impose their will on countries which do not agree with them.
The human race constitutes a part of the global environment. If we destroy the environment, then humans will end up annihilating their own species.
Human beings since the advent of the industrial revolution have been fixated on their own greed and self-interest, turning away from a natural sense of instinct and letting human behavior be governed by “reason.” In the process, irreparable damage has been wrought upon the environment. Be it animals or plants, how many species have we caused to become extinct?
Having reflected on this sorry record, various international organizations were established at the transnational level to discuss and cooperate on how to protect the global environment. One of these was the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was founded after World War II.
The IWC was established primarily by nations engaged in whaling out of a desire to make sustainable use of whale resources and to ensure orderly development of the whaling industry. In time, however, the group allowed itself to be hijacked by countries demanding the banning of whaling in its entirety.
Banning the capture of whales facing extinction is only natural and right. However, putting a ban on the taking of species for scientific purposes, like minke whales which are not threatened with extinction, under the lofty banner of “environmental conservation” is dubious at best.
The Cultural Superiority Complex
If human beings did not take life, they could not survive. That is true for vegetarians as well as meat eaters. For that reason, all food-related activities — such as hunting, harvesting, husbandry, or cultivation — should be conducted in a manner that will not destroy the environment. This should be a fundamental principle of humanity’s way of life.
Anti-whaling nations — such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia — have insisted on a total ban on whaling. But it was these same countries which relied on whale oil to light their homes and lubricate the machines in their factories in the not too distant past. In their quest for this valuable commodity they scoured first the Atlantic and then the Pacific oceans, pushing cetaceans to the very brink of extinction.
However, after petroleum replaced whale oil, whaling was no important to industries in those countries. Shrewdly, they quickly got out of the whaling business and instead took to criticizing as “barbarian” those nations that still hunted whales for food.
Their attitude was highly offensive to the Japanese people, who have traditionally been careful to use every part of the whales they caught. Observing the anti-whalers, I recalled their acts and thought, “What right do you have to call out others?”
Diet of Ordinary Japanese Relied on Whales
I was born and raised near the city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Prior to Japan’s economic takeoff in the mid-1960s, the most common form of meat served at dinner tables of Japanese who were not affluent was whale meat. It would also frequently show up in school lunches at primary schools.
I remember eating grilled red-fleshed steaks served with grated-ginger shoyu (soy sauce), as well as the white tail meat known as obake, which, after boiling, we ate with vinegar miso. Whale meat was an everyday dish for the common people in Japan, and a precious source of protein.
Shimonoseki was home port to a seafood company (forerunner of today’s Maruha Nichiro Corporation) known for its whaling activities. That was probably why whale meat was cheaper in Shimonoseki than just about anywhere else in Japan. Although whales are mammals, the meat was sold in fish shops.
Advocates from anti-whaling countries like to say things like: “Highly intelligent whales are our friends. How can you go and kill them?” It is almost as if they have become possessed by a fanatical force.
But are whales really the intelligent beings they are made out to be by such people? Isn’t it rather a case of foisting their own fantasies onto others while trying to force conversion to their chosen course of behavior?
And here is my key point: At heart, isn’t it the manifestation of a superiority complex to classify animals as worthy of protection or fit for eating based on human assessment of their level of intelligence?
This practice has led to the clear discrimination against nations that hunt whales for food and as part of their cultures. In proclaiming that they are “protecting whales,” these zealots are actually declaring to all that they are racists.
When dealing with such prejudiced people, it is quite useless for Japan to argue for the resumption of commercial whaling while presenting all the scientific data it has collected. They are cultists and nothing more.
That is why I wholeheartedly support Japan’s decision to withdraw from the IWC.
The Folly of International Organizations
Really, Japan in the postwar period has displayed a bizarre degree of gratitude to the United Nations and other international organizations. It is probably because of what happened after Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933, leading to the creation of the Axis with Germany and Italy and eventually the tragedy of the World War and trauma of unconditional surrender.
However, the decision to withdraw from the IWC offers Japan a golden opportunity to awaken from its postwar illusions about international organizations. Undoubtedly, Japan will be bombarded with criticism by the anti-whaling countries and radical environmental groups.
Do not buckle under, Japan! Fight on, Japan! The resumption of commercial whaling is a fight to defend cultural diversity.
Spreading the Word About Japanese Culture
The May 25, 1993, evening edition of the Sankei Shimbun carried an article on an intriguing individual, a practitioner of kamigata-style rakugo comic storytelling by the name of Shofukuteiensho (Ensho). On May 4 of that year, he had taken out an opinion ad in The New York Times that posed the following question to the American public:
How can you judge that hunting whales is bad? It is not a question of not having to eat whale meat, but rather the need to stand up and defend with our own hands our whale culture. Why are we being subjected to complaints from foreigners about what we choose to eat?
Ensho paid the roughly ¥1 million JPY charge to place the ad from his own pocket.
Japan resumed commercial whaling on July 1, 2019. Ensho now lives in Kyoto and I contacted him there by phone.
I asked him about the reaction to the ad he placed 26 years ago. He said that he had received around 380 airmail letters from university professors and other American intellectuals. He said that nearly all of the letters contained emotional attacks, such as “Japan is a barbaric country.”
The Task of Preserving Japanese Culture
Concerning the resumption of whaling, Ensho had this to say: “At that time I had the opportunity to meet members of the [environmentalist group] Greenpeace and I got the impression that although they are the standard-bearers for environmental protection of whales, they did not have the slightest respect for the cultures of whaling countries. The circumstances related to whales that prevailed at the time are the same today. Japan’s withdrawal from the IWC was inevitable.”
He added, though: “What concerns me is the possibility that Japan’s culture of eating whales will be severed. Even if commercial whaling has started again, if there is no demand, then it will go nowhere. Perhaps the government should develop a public relations strategy that will effectively appeal to young Japanese.”
Finally, I would like to humbly offer to members of the public in anti-whaling nations these words of wisdom by the French philosopher and intellectual Montaigne, from his essay “Of Cannibals” (1580, translated to English 1603):
As, indeed, we have no other criterion of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country where we live.
(Click here to read the article in its original Japanese.)
Author: Satoshi Kuwahara, Culture News Section, The Sankei Shimbun