Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics and Diplomacy Paperback – 7 Aug 2009
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'How has whaling come to be used as a talismanic symbol of Japanese identity and a touchstone of nationalism? Morikawa excels in debunking some of the myths frequently served up to justify the industry. Whaling advocates claim that the practice itself and consumption of whale meat are deeply embedded traditions in Japan, and assert that anti-whaling activists are guilty of cultural imperialism. Morikawa counters that modern commercial whaling bears little resemblance to the small-scale subsistence whaling that, until the dawn of the 20th century, was limited to certain coastal regions.' --Japan Times
Whaling in Japan offers readers a peek into the political and bureaucratic power relations that have resulted in Japan s continuation of whaling in the face of international opprobrium. ... The strength of this work lies in its detailed examination of the workings of Japanese bureaucracy and specifically inter-agency power relations. It explains why Japan persists in vigorously pursuing pro-whaling diplomacy, even when doing so hurts its diplomatic efforts in other, perhaps more important, areas. ... Whaling in Japan provides access to a wealth of sources otherwise only available to Japanese speakers. --Cambridge Review of International Affairs
About the Author
Jun Morikawa is a Professor in the Dept of Regional Environmental Studies at Rakuno Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He is the author of Japan and Africa: Big Business and Diplomacy (Hurst, 1997), and specializes in Japan's relations with the Third World,especially development and overseas aid.
Top Customer Reviews
Treating the phenomenon as a diplomatic or environmental issue, the author criticizes the Japanese government argument for continued sustainable whaling. Surprisingly, at no point does the author present an analysis of the actual effects of Japanese whaling on the current global population of whales, and consistently omits the fact that the Japanese whaling fleets do not target endangered species.
Instead Morikawa's main arguments concerns itself with the exposure of corruption in Japans often obscure bureaucratic systems and emphasizing (amongst others) the use of financial coercion in international diplomacy as a means of achieving their goals. Using the statistical declining interest in the consumption of whale products amongst the general population of Japan, as an argument that the practice no longer reflects any real cultural significance.
However, Morikawa falls utterly short at explaining the cultural, and to some extent religious roots of Japanese whaling. Viewing examples of pre-modern era whaling and the modern whaling industry as culturally separate, without thoroughly including the cultural and social significance the consumption of whale meat still has, in coastal communities throughout Japan (The Shinto and Buddhist practices imbedded in the whaling culture. The social bonding associated with the equal distribution of whale meat in communities, as well as the loss of cultural pride and livelihood, etc.).
Ultimately, the book presents a very narrow view on the whaling issue, that fails to address the real issue at hand, which is whether Japan should abandon parts of its cultural practices, however small or regional, in order to satisfy western moral views on animal consumption.
I do not recommend this book to anyone seeking a thorough, objective portrayal of the whaling culture in Japan.
Whilst the industry is no longer needed for the country, those civil servants involved in its continuation are locked in a downward spiral that means that, for them, they need to keep the flagging industry alive, to keep their careers on track rather than for any reason of national need.
Morikawa gets to the often unreachable heart of the debate and gives us a perspective not easily seen by those outside of Japan. Well worth a read by those interested in the whaling debate and those interested in understanding how modern Japan sometimes cannot throw off the allure of a long dead past.
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