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In an effort to boost sales of a product that has been in decline for a while and is avoided by many supermarkets, a Japanese whaling company debuted vending machines providing whale sashimi, whale steak, and whale bacon in Yokohama.
Hideki Tokoro, president of Kyodo Senpaku, welcomed potential customers while donning a whale-shaped hat at the company’s newest unmanned store, a trio of vending machines in Motomachi, an upscale retail area with artisan bakeries and fashion stores.
The firm has recently set up two similar outlets in Tokyo, plans to open a fourth in the western city of Osaka next month, and hopes to grow to 100 locations over the next five years.
“There are many major supermarkets that are afraid of being harassed by anti-whaling groups so they won’t use whale. So there are many people who want to eat whale but can’t,” Tokoro told Reuters at the launch.
“Therefore, we are opening stores with the thought that we can provide a place where those people can eat.”
According to a company spokesperson, the products on offer, with prices ranging from 1,000 yen ($8) to 3,000 yen, primarily contain whales caught in Japan.
Although the government argues that consuming whale flesh is an important aspect of Japanese culture, consumption, which peaked in the early 1960s, has slowly decreased as more readily accessible and reasonably priced sources of protein have emerged. According to government data, Japan consumed just 1,000 tonnes of whale meat in 2021, compared to 2.6 million tonnes of chicken and 1.27 million tonnes of beef.
The annual consumption of whale flesh peaked in 1962 at 233,000 tonnes.
Conservationists claim that efforts to sell whale meat are last-ditch efforts to rekindle consumer interest in a failing industry.