The claim that large-scale whaling is a traditional part of Japanese culture is shaky at best. Though Japanese in some areas have eaten whale meat since prehistoric times, the practice originated from consuming whales that had already been naturally stranded on the shore. In the 16th and 17th centuries, some areas began taking up active whaling on a large scale. However, modern commercial whaling did not begin in Japan until the late 19th century, well after the origin of this practice in many European countries. Even more importantly, there is no way that sending Japanese whaling boats into Antarctic waters to kill whales can be construed as a “traditional” activity. It was not until 1934 that Japan sent whaling ships to Antarctica for the first time, and there is nothing “traditional” about hunting whales with modern, industrialized equipment and processing the whale meat on what are essentially ocean-going factories.
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