With Japanese harpooners in the midst of their annual minke whale hunt in Antarctic waters, a department store chain in Osaka on Thursday began clearing out a three-ton supply of whale meat.
It's the annual Hanshin Whale Festival, a celebration of whale meat as a long-cherished staple, with flesh from fin whales, minke whales, humpback whales and sperm whales selling at half-price.
"This is about preserving Japan's food culture," Atsushi Yoshida, a Hanshin spokesman, told the Japan Times.
The whales were killed in the Northwestern Atlantic on government-sponsored scientific hunting missions, which are controversial. Japan uses a lethal research loophole in the wording of an International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling to conduct its hunts.
Meat from the hunts is sold commercially throughout the country.
The Japan Times reported that the majority of customers at the whale festival -- the first 100 on Thursday were served a free portion of whale-skin stew -- were seniors.
One section of the festival is titled, "A Whale's Body is Indeed a Theme Park!" It features, among other whale parts, tongue, intestines and tail served as sashimi.
-- Pete Thomas
Image of humpback whale fluke by ©Pete Thomas