Whaling in Japan by Jun Morikawa

412ZjBL2U8L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Nonfiction — print. Columbia University Press, 2009. 170 pgs. Library copy.

Subtitled “Power, Politics, and Diplomacy”, I picked Morikawa’s book in a quest to find a good introduction to the conflict between Japan and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society over whaling in the Southern Ocean of the coast of Antarctica. (The SSCS is probably best known from the TV series, “Whale Wars”.) This topic is the focus of my final, research paper for a class on trafficking and illicit commodities because I am intrigued over how whaling and efforts to stop the practice can be perceived and/or presented as illicit and licit depending on point of view. I am also intrigued by the idea of using whales as an alternative food source.

The book largely focuses on how “whaling traditions and whale-eating culture” has been used to support Japan’s current whaling operations under the banner of research and expand support for opening whales up to commercial fishing. Morikawa explains whaling and a whale-eating culture has largely been constructed by political leaders and is not entirely based in history. (Some smaller regions do have a history of eating whales, but this has largely stemmed from whales that wash up on shore.) He goes onto explain how Japan has shored up support within the International Whaling Commission by financially supporting smaller island and landlocked nations.

Unfortunately, Morikawa’s book was not everything I wanted to be. At times the book comes across as elementary, pointing out the obvious and repeating the same point over and over again. At other moments, it becomes so bogged down in acronyms that I felt as though I needed to Ph. D. to keep all the organizations and players straight. Certainly this book has provided the springboard to further research but I hope it does not turn out to be the best book I find in my quest for more information.

The Honors Project:

I read this book for The Honors Project, my own personal challenge to read more books about economics, food, and/or geography in preparation for writing my honors thesis. My goal for this project is to learn as much as I can about these topics so I can formulate better questions and, in turn, produce a better honors thesis. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post, project post, or spreadsheet of titles.


  1. I recently watched a documentarty called The Cove (it is available on DVD) and that provided a facsinating insight into Japan’s whaling/dolphin killing. It also highlighted the fact that most Japanese people were against such practices. I highly recommend that you watch it if you are interested in this area.


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