Whale curry made its debut as a takeaway business lunch in Tokyo today, attracting curious customers who seldom eat the meat amid an international row over hunting the giant mammals. Asian Lunch, which says it sells 1,000-1,500 lunch boxes daily in Tokyo's business districts, offered South Asian-style keema curry with ground whale in a first trial for the meat.
Dozens of customers, aged mostly in their 20s to 40s, ordered whale curry sold on a van at a cost of 650 to 700 yen ($6 to $6.5) a box. "I wasn't thinking about complicated things," 24-year-old engineer Hiroki Nakasima said when asked about the international furore over Japan's whaling.
"I understand foreign people don't like this, the same way that many Japanese don't like Koreans eating dog meat. But I have no prejudice against whale meat," he said. Most Japanese have seldom eaten whale since an international moratorium on hunting was imposed in 1986.
Japan still catches the whales using a loophole that allows "lethal research" on the mammals. This month Japan infuriated its Western allies, particularly Australia and New Zealand, by launching its largest yet whale hunt which for the first time will kill humpbacks, beloved of whale watchers.
"Is this from research whaling? I didn't know but it's rare anyway," a young woman who gave her first name as Seiko said as she ordered the curry.
Her friend said: "I wondered for a second if it was really okay to eat whales, but I'm curious." Kazue Kurosawa, a 42-year-old accountant at a trading company, also said she "wanted to try something rare".