"After World War II shattered Japan's economy, food was scarce and meat especially so. So General Douglas MacArthur, who effectively ruled Japan during the post-war Allied occupation, decided the Japanese should get protein from the sea. In 1946, he authorized two military tankers to become giant whaling ships and helped usher in a new era of industrial whaling in Japan. A generation of Japanese children grew up eating whale meat in school lunches.
Ah, how the times have changed.
When Japan this week resumed hunting minke whales in defiance of an international moratorium, the country found itself now on the other side of the Americans—and Australians, and New Zealanders, and most of the world, really. The International Whaling Commission has banned commercial whale hunting since 1986, making an exception for scientific research. Japan obeys the letter, if not exactly spirit, of the ban by saying the 333 whales it plans to kill each year are purely for research.
(Iceland and Norway, on the other hand, object to the moratorium and continue to hunt whales commercially without using science as an excuse.)
Given how Japan has twisted itself into knots to justify its whaling and how much international flack it's getting, you might conclude whale meat is a hugely important part of Japanese cuisine. Nope. Small-scale whaling is traditional in some parts of Japan, but whale meat was only ever popular in the postwar period. So for older Japanese, "this is like nostalgia food," says Katarzyna Cwiertka, a Japanese studies professor and author of Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity…"
Full article here