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ISANA No.33 ISANA Jan. 2007 No.33
  1. Celebrating the Centenary of Modern Whaling in Ayukawa
    Kimio Doi (Mayor Ishinomaki City)

  2. To preserve whale dietary culture is another form of the slow food movement
    Natsu Shimamura (Writer)

  3. Attending the IWC meeting in St. Kitts and Nevis
    Naoya Tanikawa (Associate Professor Chuo Gakuin University)

Celebrating the Centenary of Modern Whaling in Ayukawa

photo Kimio Doi
Mayor Ishinomaki City

  "Great! It took 20 years until we finally arrived at this point."

  These were the words uttered loudly by an elderly man in Ayukawa in Ishinomaki City in front of a grandson, when he learned from television news that the St. Kitts and Nevis Declaration was adopted by a simple majority at the 58th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June of this year (quoted from an essay written by the grandson).

  These words depict vividly the years of agony suffered by whalers. They also represent praise to the resolute posture of the Japanese government that faced up to the unreasonable imposition of values and various forms of pressure from Western anti-whaling countries, such as the United States, Britain and Australia, for about 20 years until Japan and other pro-whaling countries gained the majority for the first time since the adoption of the commercial whaling moratorium. I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound respect to all those who worked for the achievement of this goal.

  This year, when epoch-making progress was marked at the IWC, coincides with the centenary of the birth of modern whaling in Ishinomaki City. Recently, a commemorative ceremony was held at the Oshika Whale Land--formerly the site of Ayukawa station of Taiyo Fishery Co. On that event, the participants were reminded of the past development in Ayukawa as follows.

  Few people involved in whaling may not have heard the name of Ayukawa, one of Japan's leading whaling bases which embodied the development of modern whaling.


  Modern whaling started in Ayukawa in Miyagi Prefecture in 1906, when Toyo Gyogyo Co., Ltd. (later to become Nippon Suisan Co., Ltd.) based in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture started whaling operations in the area off Kinkazan where abundant whale resources were found by opening an office in the village. This company made business success by introducing the Norwegian-style whaling method, known as the modern whaling method.

  It is recorded that Ayukawa at that time was a tiny poor village with only 50 families. We can easily imagine how astonished the villagers were when the company's factory ship Mikhail (3,643 tons) and the catcher boat Nikolai (130 tons) arrived in Ayukawa Bay.

  Compare the Mikhail with the 758-ton No.16 Toshimaru which joined the Antarctic expeditions and is on display now at the Oshika Whale Land.

  The people in a small fishing village of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), having no wharf and breakwater, must have been dumbfounded by the sight of the giant Mikhail.

  The two vessels, carrying Russian name, had been confiscated from Russia by the Japanese Navy during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and had been leased by the Japanese government.


  In its first cruise two days after arrival in Ayukawa, the Nikolai captured a blue whale of about 22 meters. The vessel continued operations smoothly since then. Soon afterwards, land processing facilities were completed, making land-based operations possible in Ayukawa.

  From the following year, whaling companies which heard of the success of Toyo Fishery joined one after another in the operation in the area off Kinkazan. By 1909, nine of the 12 whaling firms, which were mainly headquartered in the western part of Japan, operated in the area, having offices throughout the Oshika Peninsula.

  I would like to mention briefly how Ayukawa at that time coped with and accepted the advent of the modern whaling industry. It is not hard to imagine that considerable water contamination occurred as large whales such as blue whales were flensed within the bay. There remain records that, in the initial years, the fishing grounds of neighboring communities were polluted as bones, skin and internal organs of whales were discarded into the sea.

  Fortunately for whaling firms, however, Ayukawa at that time had been a small community without any basic industry. Whaling companies had come to terms with the village authorities by making substantial donations to the local administrative management and paid a large "whaling tax" as a form of fishery-related taxes. Further, some local people found jobs in the whaling firms turning themselves into company employees, and others launched into the whale fertilizer business manufacturing fertilizers by buying the internal organs of harvested whales.


  Gradually, whaling has become the center of the local economy. In subsequent years, the economy of Ayukawa thrived with various industries related to whaling taking root locally, including restaurant and recreational industries. Ayukawa continued to prosper toward the years around 1955 which was the peak period of Japan's whaling industry.

  Ayukawa has a rich whaling history, with many local people joining in Japan's Antarctic whaling expeditions started in 1934. Further, Japan's minke whaling started in Ayukawa in 1933 amid the fluctuations of the whale meat market then.

  The readers who are interested are cordially advised to visit the community to gain first-hand knowledge of Ayukawa's history.

  As witnessed in the moves at the IWC this year, I believe the environment surrounding whaling is obviously changing both in Japan and internationally. In the background of this change, I may point to the dauntless efforts of all those who were involved in the whaling issue, as I mentioned earlier.

  In addition, I am convinced that earnest approaches at the level of local autonomies as represented by the "Traditional Whaling Summit" and the "Local governmentsEsummit meeting concerning their communities and whaling issues" have supported these efforts.

  In the context of these efforts, Ishinomaki City is now preparing for the first "Whaling Forum" to be held in 2007 so that we can maintain the present favorable environment. I would like to cordially extend an invitation to all interested people to attend this meeting in Ishinomaki.

Toyo Gyogyo Co., Ltd. of the Meiji Era (Photographed in 1910) Presented by Ishinomaki City

Flensing operation by Ayukawa Hogei Co., Ltd. (Photographed late in the 1920s) Presented by Ishinomaki City

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