Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Tale of the Whale

I'd got back from work early, been to the 100 yen shop on the way, and splurged - if you can splurge in a place where everything costs the equivalent of 66p - on milk and bread rolls, eight eggs, a bunch of five bananas from the Phillipines and a tin of tuna with Japanese writing on the side.

I began to doubt that it was tuna the moment I opened the tin. Dozens of tiny bones were mixed in with the fish, some of which was wrapped around bits of a hard, enamel-white substance the shape and size of a push-down pen top. The meat was red, semi-dessicated and tough, and tasted like oily beef. I took a bite, wondering what kind of fish I was eating, then scanned the characters on the side of the tin using the Japanese-English dictionary on my mobile phone. The final word of the first sentence translated as Iceland; a quick search of the internet threw up an identical picture of the tin alongside an article entitled 'Tesco stops selling whale meat in its Japanese subsidiaries'. I didn't bother eating the rest of the bun.

I'd always assumed that whale meat was an expensive delicacy here, forgetting that it only really became popular as a cheap way to get protein in the years immediately after the war. I checked the next day, but none of my students had ever eaten it and most were surprised to hear you could buy it so easily. "You whale whore," laughed the Australian I share a teachers' room with. "I got some bad tuna from there myself the other week. It was full of little, round white stuff."

No comments: