I have the 1996 Terrorvision song “Perseverance” playing in my head today: “Whales and dolphins, whales and dolphins, yeah.” Why? Because I discovered something shocking about my beloved Japan today.
I’ve always known that some strange things are on the menu in Japan and, being a pescetarian (that’s a veggie who eats fish, by the way), I’ve always felt a little queasy about eating most kinds of meat (even cows and pigs). I confess that I did eat chicken for most of my time in Nagoya, but for some reason I couldn’t stomach it once I got to Hamamatsu and I quit eating it again. Other than chicken (and anything that snuck into my food without my knowing it), I haven’t eaten meat properly since around the time I became a teenager. I don’t really mind other people eating meat though, so long as they can admit to themselves what they are eating.
Whale shocked me when I first learned about it, but it is now such a common topic of conversation for me and my students. I often find myself asking “Have you ever eaten whale?” alongside “Have you ever eaten crocodile or kangaroo?”. It’s not that I condone it, but I’ve learnt that it’s a part of Japanese history. Many school children grew up on whale meat, as it was a staple food after the war. Therefore, many seniors today still consider it quite acceptable to eat whale meat. (Just for the record, I don’t.)
However, today I heard about another item on the menu which was far more shocking than any of the above.
At first, I thought there must have been some miscommunication and that the person who told me about eating dolphins actually meant whales. But no. Dolphins. いるか. Dolphins.
My response was to simple repeat the word. Dolphins? Dolphins?? Dolphins???
I felt so shocked I actually could have burst into tears right there and then. I couldn’t believe that anyone would eat dolphins – an animal usually considered to be very intelligent.
If you don’t believe me, check out this informative blog post: What it’s like to eat Flipper. See? People really do eat dolphin meat in Japan.
I’m curious to see the documentary film The Cove, now. I hadn’t heard about it before, but it’s been mentioned to me every time I’ve squeaked “dolphins??” at someone today.
Japan, you’ve done many things to shock and stun me in the past. But, I have to say, I’m seriously disappointed in you today. 😦