Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Last Meal .... Don't Mention the Whale...

18th October, 2006 - Well, it was the last night out in Sapporo before we headed out, somewhat hesitantly, for Kansai. T-chan's been to the local obstetrician clinic twice since I've been back in Sapporo and everything looks ok. But, this is all new for us, and it's been a long while since T-chan's parents (or mine for that matter) have had babies. We hadn't planned to be pregnant during holidays, so there was a lot we didn't know...

We had one last night out at a sushi-train restaurant in Teine... called Toppi (actually, just around the corner from the Bikkuri Donkey we went to just the previous week). I love sushi-train... but it's even better when it's being shouted. And - I have to say, I did something very politically incorrect. I ate whale sashimi. OMG! What a beast!

Ok - I'm not sure what's happening out there in the rest of the world, but right now, Australia is mounting a legal case against Japan re: whaling in the Southern Ocean. The uproar was beginning around 2006, and peaked around 07/08 to the point where the media here was lathered up in a frenzy over whaling... and the growing antagonism on the high seas.

My solution? Well, to actually see what all the fuss was about. It's all very easy for us sitting over in another country to descry any number of reasons why whaling is evil incarnate... and likewise, it's also easy for Japanese to hold up the right to whale like a political call-to-arms.

What's the reality? Well, the meat was very dark and quite slippery (lots of oil? or was that my imagination) - and I have to say not that amazingly tasty. It wasn't bad, but not something I was hankering for a second helping of either.The fact that you can buy whale sashimi in a small local sushi-train says a lot to me. It says that unless I missed the fine print, I wasn't part of some scientific experiment... it also meant that whale is hardly the anachronism that popular Western media suggests.The world is full of grey, and whilst the idea of whaling is barbaric to my own sensibilities, I also accept a certain degree of hypocrisy when I'm gulping down my big, thick steaks, and even chewing on a Kangaroo tail....

As the sole slice of former whale slid down my throat to join the tuna, salmon, bream, prawn, roe, eel and countless other morsels... I did try to imagine what the reaction would be if people in the West also found out they eat horse here!

Now horse... that's a different story!

It was a big meal - and whilst T-chan was happy to clean up on a LOT OF SUSHI, the lack of continued taste was starting to wear thin. The doctor had suggested that pregnancy can cause heightened allergies, and that this might somehow be the cause of her lack of taste (and smell)... none of this made the tasteless food seem any more appealing.

So it was with a crescendo of stacked empty dishes, and a lot of "leaving home" feelings that we headed home to start our last minute packing. This was our penultimate night... we had one more day to do last minute shopping....The last night in Sapporo is always a difficult one for us, but infinitely more painful for T-chan as she packs her memories of her home-life into her suitcase to carry back all the way to Adelaide, Australia. This time - via a very hectic time in Kansai district!...
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  1. Whale...? I don't really know to say about it. I guess it's something you try at least once...? How does basashi compare?

  2. Don't know...horse is not common (but neither is whale). I have never had horse - and I most probably wouldn't knowingly if the truth be told.

  3. I'm torn on the entire issue.

    On one hand it is argued as a cultural practice, which I can accept. I mean, who are we to object to a practice that begun in the 12th century.

    On the other hand, it wasn't commercial whaling back in the day and the modern day whaling fleets (due to the now pristine waters of the Sea of Japan being clear of whale life due to over-whaling) have now had to hone in on the southern waters and are often accused of crossing into the sovereign waters of other nations, to hunt whales.

    The political angle frustrates me most. Japan joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1951. The IWC voted in favor of a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, yet whales still end up on menus in Japan because Japan exploit a loophole allowing them to hunt whales for scientific research purposes.

    All that said, I would still try a whale burger at Lucky Pierrot in Hakodate.

  4. Yeah... the issue of whaling is one that causes me no end of grief amongst my Australian associates at home. Of course, I normally get put in the position having to defend the Japanese practice of whaling - something I'm not sure I'm either qualified or willing to do.

    However - I will say this; it's very easy to make value judgements from a distance... geographic and cultural distance. Should the Japanese whale - most probably not. Should we tell them what they can and can't do because of our beliefs?... Well, that's one for better minds than myself. And I'm no fan of the Sea Shepherd approach... as I don't see that it's constructive, but rather seeks to win the debate by escalating until madness ensues...

    Of course - the whole scientific whaling program is a joke; and the moves to re-instating a whaling program for what it was is a step in the right direction. Let's not pretend that it doesn't happen... a protein-based by-product by any other name...