Japan Kicks Off Whaling Season with Public Carving
To kick off the beginning of Japan's whaling season, workers in the coastal town of Minamiboso on Thursday publicly carved up one of the animals while a crowd of schoolchildren and local residents watched, later offering samples of its fried meat.
The annual event took place in the district of Wada, just after an International Court Justice (ICJ) ruling halted Japan's Arctic whaling in March - which the country has asserted is all in the name of scientific research.
Japan also maintains that whales are an important part of their food heritage, and this town - located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Tokyo - took the opportunity to teach children about its local history and culture.
"Here in Wada we eat whales. Every family eats whale at least once during the summer whaling season," said Michiyo Masuda, the students' teacher, Reuters reported. "If we are eating whales, we have the responsibility to see and learn how they're prepared."
Workers used ropes and a pulley to drag a nine-meter whale - killed the previous night - up a concrete ramp amidst both engrossed and nervous onlookers.
"This part is the fat. If you're scared, close your eyes," said Yoshinori Shoji, president of the Gaibo Hogei whaling company, as one of the workers sawed off the whale's skin and fat, exposing its meat and entrails.
In the past week, the company has killed six Baird's beaked whales, the type sliced up on Thursday, and has plans to catch 14 more before the whaling season ends in August.
Though environmentalists might disagree, Japan claims that many whale species are not endangered, and they show no signs of budging on their long-held tradition.
"It's our right to take and eat whale within our waters," Shoji added.
That said, the recent ICJ ruling prompted Japan to cancel whaling in the Southern Ocean for 2014-2015. Meanwhile, reports emerged that 30 minke whales had been killed during the April-June whaling season as part of the country's "research hunts" in the northwest Pacific Ocean.