INTERVIEW | Hirohiko Shimizu: Misunderstood, Japanese whaling research is actually doing something right
Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019, and the Japanese news has been filled with reports on the subject. But even with the sudden increase in information from viewing and reading opportunities and about whaling, most people still don’t know the basics of the industry.
Where are the whales caught? How does meat end up on dinner plates across the country?
Hirohiko Shimizu, one of the biggest sellers and promoters of whale meat in Japan, knows more than anyone. He is the chairman of Myklebust Japan, a subsidiary of Norway’s largest whaling company, Myklebust Hvalprodukter. Yet even he admits that at the time of his university studies, he knew nothing at all about whaling.
In an interview, we explained to him how he became so passionate about the subject, what made him devote himself to the problems of whaling and what he learned during his journey.
Early fascination with goldfish
You studied at the Faculty of Fisheries at Kagoshima University, but did you have a passion for whales when you were young?
Not at all. In my youth, I loved to breed goldfish. I was really excited to cross paths with different species to see what kind of offspring they would produce.
I was born in Nagoya, and there was a town there called Yatomi, which was an important center for goldfish. There were many goldfish shops near my home. My house was in a rural area, so it was surrounded by rice fields filled with all kinds of insects. I picked them up and fed them to my goldfish.
It was something that I really liked, so I decided to enter the faculty of fisheries at the university. My first choice, Hokkaido University, was a little too difficult, so I decided that if I couldn’t go north, I would go south and chose Kagoshima University. Really, I just wanted to get out of Nagoya and live on my own, but Tokyo seemed so dear to me that I decided to go to a school in the countryside (laughs).
American classmates criticized whaling
Raising goldfish by hand is a unique way to study fishing! Did you become interested in whaling after you started college?
I was in fourth grade when I decided I wanted to learn more about whales. I was an exchange student at the University of Pukyong in South Korea in my second year, and at the University of Georgia in the United States in my fourth year.
When I was at the University of Georgia, my classmates and roommates would ask me things like, “Why does Japan hunt whales?” and “Don’t you think it’s cruel?” – and that’s what sparked my interest.
Americans are used to speaking very directly, and when people I considered friends suddenly confronted me so directly, it was a shock. It really made me wonder, “Why are they accusing me of this?” “
Early interest in the conservation-oriented whaling program
How did you react to your American friends?
In fact, I had never thought of whales, so I didn’t have a particular opinion on whaling. So the first thing I did was research Japanese whaling even when I was still in the United States.
(You can read the rest of the article on this link. This article was first published by Whaling Today on September 10, 2021. Check out Whaling today for more in-depth and unique information about Japanese whaling culture, whale conservation efforts, and sustainable whaling.)
(Read the article in Japanese at this link.)
(This article is published in collaboration with the Cetacean Research Institute in Japan. Let us hear your thoughts in our comments section.)
Author: JAPAN Before