Whale curry made its debut as a takeaway business lunch in Tokyo on Thursday, attracting curious customers who seldom eat the meat amid an international row over hunting the giant mammals.
Asian Lunch, which says it sells 1 000 to 1 500 lunch boxes daily in Tokyo’s business districts, offered South Asian-style keema curry with ground whale in a first trial for the meat.
Dozens of customers, aged mostly in their 20s to 40s, ordered whale curry sold on a van at a cost of ¥650 to ¥700 ($6 to $6,50) a box.
“I wasn’t thinking about complicated things,” 24-year-old engineer Hiroki Nakashima said when asked about the international furore over Japan’s whaling.
“I understand foreign people don’t like this, the same way that many Japanese don’t like Koreans eating dog meat. But I have no prejudice against whale meat,” he said.
Most Japanese have seldom eaten whale since an international moratorium on hunting was imposed in 1986. Japan still catches the whales using a loophole that allows “lethal research” on the mammals.
This month Japan infuriated its Western allies, particularly Australia and New Zealand, by launching its largest yet whale hunt which for the first time will kill humpbacks, beloved of whale watchers.
“Is this from research whaling? I didn’t know but it’s rare anyway,” a young woman who gave her first name as Seiko said as she ordered the curry.
Her friend said: “I wondered for a second if it was really okay to eat whales, but I’m curious.”
Kazue Kurosawa, a 42-year-old accountant at a trading company, also said she “wanted to try something rare”.
“There should be some restrictions on the catch but I’d opt to have whale meat again if there is another opportunity,” she said.
But a man in his 50s declined to buy the curry.
“I grew up eating whale and I like it. I want to have real slices, not this ground meat,” said the man who asked for anonymity.
Japan has been trying to give young people a taste for whale, which has also been marketed in burgers.
Asian Lunch, which is also planning other whale dishes, introduced whale after being approached by a seller set up with the government’s encouragement. – AFP