Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Speaking of Whaling

It has been mentioned in several articles in the English language press in Japan and many overseas, that the so-called whaling tradition in Japan really began after WW2 during the US Occupation when the US pushed Japan to use more whale meat in schools and other places. If I remember correctly, one reason was to reduce the food costs.

This type of information most likely never reaches the average Japanese. According to an article in the Canberra Times:

Earlier this year, I had a chance to talk to a Japanese journalist who specialises in fishery and whaling issues. According to this journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, whaling articles in Japan are usually written without getting the views of either environmentalists or government officials from the anti-whaling countries.

It is not their restricted English that stops Japanese journalists from making an inquiry (all major international environmental organisations and major anti-whaling countries are equipped with Japanese speaking PR specialists in Tokyo). Rather, there is an ongoing Japanese media practice that prevents Japanese journalists from crossing horizons to hear the word of their "adversaries."

This means that the Japanese public are very ill-informed about the whaling issue. Canberra Times article (editorial) here.

This type of "coverage" seems to apply across the board. I rarely speak to people no matter how international or educated who seem to be aware of much of the rational behind the debates concerning Japan from overseas governments or organizations. This kind of information is readily available in English, but obviously not so readily discussed in Japanese in the Japanese media. One cannot in any way assume that the same is included in a Japanese-language newspaper as in the English-language version. Some, like the Japan Times, do not have a Japanese language version.

One important example is the fact that Nature magazine published an article calling into serious doubt that a Japanese scientist was able to identify remains said to by those of one of the Japanese kidnapped by North Korea as not belonging to the Japanese victim. The Japanese scientist himself admitted flaws and doubts with this finding. It has not received much if any coverage in Japan. Naturally, the Japanese government pretends the controversy never happened or is not significant.

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