Eating whales used to be quite common in Japan, particularly after the Second World War when there was a severe shortage of food. It is rare today, but whales were commonly served in school lunches, and many izakayas offered it as part of the menu.
The Japanese Government has always taken the position that while it strongly supports the protection of endangered species, the sustainable use of certain types of whale species does not pose the risk to stocks.
Four coastal communities are still involved in the taking of whales, and one of them is Wadaura in the southern tip of Chiba Prefecture's Boso Peninsula. It's possible to categorize this location as being in the Greater-Tokyo area, though a train ride from Tokyo Station will take more than three hours. The palm trees outside the Wadaura Station (pictured) indicate a warmer climate as well.
Anyone wanting to sample whale food can visit WA・O!, a facility run by locals that feature various items ranging from deep-fried whale meat to rice balls containing whale meat. There is also the restaurant Wadahama serving various whale meals, including a lunch plate that resembles the school lunch from 40-50 years ago.
The facility is open from 9 am - 6 pm, seven days a week.
During the whaling season (usually late June-August and October/November), it is possible to watch process in which the hunted whales get sliced with the aid of a winch.
Announcements are made on the a blog maintained by a manager Gaibou Hogei, the company in charge of the hunting and distribution in the Port of Wadaura.
Obviously the website is not written in English, so non-Japanese readers will need to rely on Google Translate, and announcements are only made the evening prior to when the dismantling will take place.
When we visited in June 2018 the work started at 1 pm, but sometimes it can start at 6 or 7 in the morning making a visit difficult unless one is staying in the area,.
Around 15 workers each take their small role in the process; much of it is done in silence and it appears the workers know exactly what to do without anyone giving them instructions.
Visitors are able to watch and take pictures freely from behind, and occasionally local schoolchildren make a visit as part of their curriculum.
The whole procedure only take about one hour and once the curious crowd has gone away, Wadaura quickly returns to its usual quiet state.