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An April 1, 2007, New York Times editorial took up Japanese whaling, faulting Japan on its obsession with the practice. Japanese tourists, however, don’t have to go to Hawaii to watch “these wonderful, sociable mammals” breed and breathe in coastal waters. Whales are coming back to the Japanese coast as well.

Okinawa’s Zamami islands are one such area where you can enjoy the thrill of encountering these great sea mammals. As the editorial says, who should ever think of slaughtering these lovable creatures for consumption? So The New York Times’ criticism of Japan’s continual whaling is not off the mark completely.

However, I cannot help but remind that paper’s editors of how much the 19th-century United States wreaked havoc with the cetaceans. U.S. whaling ships hunted the world over for whales solely for their oil to light street lamps in cities. An accidental byproduct of commercial whaling by the United States was to force a reclusive Japan to open its doors to ensure rest and supplies for American whalers.

Eventually, though, the U.S. exhausted the whale population in both oceans almost to the brink of extinction and so stopped whaling because profits were not expected in commercial whaling any longer. When Americans criticize Japan, they should not forget this undeniable historical fact.

yoshio shimoji

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