I Ate Whale Meat

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I kept wondering where the whale dealers were. Finally, I spied the strips of red meat that Lunt had served--wrapped tightly in cellophane, looking more like packs of bacon than corned beef. I took the opportunity to ask Lunt why he served whale.

"My understanding is that the whole thing is purely a political issue," Lunt said of the controversy. "There are certain elements--the nationalists--who believe it is not right for other countries to tell Japan what it can and cannot eat."

Lunt went on to explain that it was the Americans who encouraged the Japanese to eat whale as a cheap source of protein in the rebuilding years after World War II. Now, ironically, it is the Americans who are among the loudest to condemn Japan for continuing to eat it, Lunt said.

Most Japanese don't even like whale , he added. "It's the old boys who come in and order it," Lunt said. "Some people come in and say I shouldn't serve whale. But I don't mind a little controversy."

The Japanese whaling industry is again in the spotlight in the wake of a new documentary called The Cove , by director Louie Psihoyos, that seeks to expose the country's dolphin-hunting industry. Foreign Policy magazine also recently highlighted Japanese whaling in a critical light.

In fact, most Japanese I know don't eat much whale, which is now fairly expensive. But several agreed that the country should not be cowed into taking it off menus because of international standards. Some Japanese have argued that Minke whales, in particular, are actually growing in number and threatening to eliminate some species of fish.

About a week after eating whale, I joined my co-workers on another enkai. During dinner, I asked what other unusual foods they had eaten.

"Crocodile," said Tetsu Hasegawa, who has traveled to Australia.

"Dog," Shiggy said. "It was in China. I was like you with whale; I didn't know what it was."

Was he angry when he learned it was dog? "Not really. It is considered a delicacy."

"Ostrich," Hasegawa continued.

"Kangaroo," Shiggy said.

Andy's Shin Hinomoto is at 2-4-4 Yurakucho, Tokyo, Japan. Phone 03-3214-8021. Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight.

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David Nakamura is a staff writer for The Washington Post who believes that safe tap water is an important ingredient for any city that aspires to food supremacy. More

David Nakamura is a staff writer for The Washington Post who missed authentic Japanese food so much that he took a year off to escape to Tokyo on an international affairs fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written about politics, education, sports and, every now and then, Japanese food for the Post. He headed a team of reporters that was awarded the 2005 Selden Ring Award for investigative reporting after exposing excessive levels of lead contamination in the District of Columbia's drinking water and the government's failure to notify the public. His general philosophy is that safe tap water is an important ingredient for any city that aspires to food supremacy.

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