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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Only in Japan,.

There are plans afoot to open up a sea-world themed park in Taiji where people can watch the antics of dolphins, and when done go to a restaurant and eat one.

This is like going to the zoo, seeing the Panda, Ostrich and Elephants and Gorillas and then sampling some panda chops, ostrich drumsticks, elephant tartar and gorilla burgers…

Hell... look at the photo above... could you eat that? Uhh... never mind.

In Taiji, where whale and dolphin meats are apparently an everyday delicacy, local Japanese official Wada Masaki (surname first) announced plans to open a park where experiencing these marine mammals could mean playing with them while eating some of them.

Taiji is a small town in Wakayama-ken, and as of 2011 has a mere 3,225 people as its population. Although a 1988 ruling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) caused Taiji to suspend commercial whaling, the town continues to hunt small whales and dolphins.

It's annual dolphin hunt is a subject of controversy and the town faces continued pressure from protest groups... so you know the announcement of this theme park and restaurant menu is sure to stir up international controversy.

Traditional whaling in Taiji ukiyo-e print, Edo-jidai.
I have eaten whale in Japan on two occasions... once when I accidentally bought a can of the stuff thinking it was tuna, and the other when I purposely had some at a restaurant in Japan in the form of sushi. It was okay, but not something I would actively seek out.

Dolphin? In the old days, I'm sure I ate some back when dolphin was sometimes caught alongside tuna and processed as such in the canned meats section. If I did eat dolphin, it tasted just like chicken-of-the-sea (Tuna brand), and it was good, but why have something that tastes like white meat tuna... what the Japanese have typically referred to as that crappy part of the tuna that the gaijin seem to like eating.

So... the plan in Taiji is for tourists to come and watch the sea critters romp and splash about in some pools - maybe perform some cool tricks for you - and then when you get hungry, you can go to the restaurant and chow down on a dolphin that was too stupid to learn any tricks like leaping through a hoop.

Apparently dolphins are supposed to be almost as smart as humans... which sucks... because we humans are not really that smart.

Even now... at Wada's waterpark, it is reported that dolphin trainers are already auditioning dolphins... talented ones live... non-talented ones become lunch. Hey... dolphins, like human beings must have differing levels of 'smartness', right?

Anyhow... Wada says that the new park and eatery will also allow visitors to play in the waters with dolphins (I'll take that one - medium-well!).

"We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place. In the summer, swimmers can enjoy watching the mammals that are released from a partitioned-off space. But we plan to do it on a larger scale," says Wada.

Amidst bloody waters, Taiji fishermen haul dolphin aboard their vessel.
Taiji is a strange place... but the whole dolphin and eating of whale thing is something that many Japanese will defend.

Granted this was 20 years ago, but back in 1993, Japan was once again coming under fire for the hunting and eating of whale (not the dolphins as per this article's focus), so what did the Japanese do? All of a sudden everyone began talking about how Japanese traditions need to be maintained, and that no stupid foreigners should be allowed to tell Japan how to handle traditional Japanese foods like dolphin or whale.

Traditions are fine to uphold... but 150 years ago and more, there weren't a hell of a lot of protein options for the lower-class Japanese... so supplementing their income with whale or dolphin meat caught in their nets was acceptable... but go hungry in Japan or not having enough protein... that doesn't wash in 2013 Japan. There are plenty of other options available to the hungry Nihonjin (Japanese people).

But in 1993, Japan's cheekiness to preserve a tradition many of them had never partaken off until the media started pointing fingers at naughty Japan... well, it was laughable in a disgusting way... as damn near everyone I talked to manned up and agreed that Japanese traditions must be preserved.

Honestly... of the 20 or so people I chatted with about this topic, only one had ever eaten whale before the 1993 controversy erupted in the media... everyone else... they did it because they felt they needed to support the Japanese tradition.

Everyone swore that the whale tasted delicious... but I'm betting that was just for me - the stupid foreigner... because... it really isn't delicious. It's passable as a food.

Somewhere blubbering over stupid dolphin tricks,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Today's title is from the Douglas Adams book - one of the five comedic books of the Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy trilogy. Adams, by the way, also wrote a book Last Chance To See in 1990, that I bought while in Japan. It's a non-fiction book about animal species on the brink of extinction. You should read it.
PPS: I also discovered that when I write comedic short stories and novellas, I write in a very similar vein (the Jugular) to Adams... a fact I discovered when I first read his works as a 20-year-old. He is missed.
PPPS: A special hello to Alice.


  1. I'm sure Alice is waving back!

    1. I can only hope. Alice went down a rabbit hole and hasn't been seen in a long while.