A business in Japan has chosen to solve what it believes is a critical problem in the food culture of Japan. How? By making whale meat available for public sale in a vending machine. Read ahead for more details on the unusual innovation.
A few days ago, the Internet caught wind of a Japanese whaling firm when it unveiled vending machines that sold food like whale sashimi, whale steak and whale bacon in Yokohama.
This was done in hopes of racking up sales of whale food which has long been in decline, rejected by many supermarkets.
The store is the latest unmanned store – a trio of vending machines in Motomachi, an upmarket shopping district home to fashion boutiques and artisan bakeries.
Those who visit are greeted by Kyodo Senpaku President Hideki. The whaling firm has also just created two identical outlets in Tokyo, and has plans to launch a fourth in Osaka in February. They hope to grow to 100 locations over the next couple of years.
At the launch, Tokoro said: "There are many major supermarkets that are afraid of being harassed by anti-whaling groups so they won’t use whale. So there are many people who want to eat whales but can’t."
He also added: “Therefore, we are opening stores with the thought that we can provide a place where those people can eat.”
The Japanese government has maintained that eating whale is an important part of their food culture however consumption rates have only kept falling in the past few decades.
In 2021, whale meat consumption in Japan totaled 1,000 tonnes while chicken went for 2.6 million tonnes and beef for 1.27 million for beef. At its peak in 1962, annual whale meat consumption was 233,000 tonnes.
It is clear that the business is struggling and conservationists believe the current marketing trend is an attempt to revive it.
Katrin Matthes, leader of Japan policy for Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a global charity, had this to say: "Most Japanese people have never ever tried it. So how can it be something you call a nationwide culture if nobody’s really participating in it?”
Whale hunting was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986 after some species almost went extinct. However Japan kept hunting them in the name of research. It finally pulled out of the IWC and continued commercial whaling in 2019.
Some people have said it is something they would like to eat but will not go out of their way to purchase.