Four vending machines selling whale meat to commuters have been introduced in central Tokyo.
The move comes as part of efforts on the part of the Japanese government and whaling company Kyodo Senpaku to increase the consumption of whale meat in the country.
The trial at Kojigaya Station in Ota-ku, central Tokyo, has been so successful that the company has now announced the opening of a further four sites in the month ahead, with plans to expand to 100 stores nationwide over the next five years.
In addition to frozen whale sashimi, steak, skin, bacon and a canned stew known as "yamato-ni," the company has promised that the new machines will offer tail meat, a highly prized delicacy.
Prices per portion range from JPY 1,000 (€7.19/$7.78) to JPY 3,000 (€21.58/$23.35) according to Koichi Mihira, head of sales at Kyodo Senpaku.
"We are surprised by the sales exceeding our expectations. We want to respond to the voices of those who want to eat it but don't know where to buy it," Mihira told Japanese national newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Whale meat was a staple in Japan in the years after the end of World War II. Consumption peaked in 1962 at 233,000 metric tons, surpassing both beef (157,000 metric tons) and chicken (155,000 metric tons), according to statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Since then, however, consumption has declined massively, and is thought to amount to as little as 1,000 metric tons per year.
"If the domestic consumption does not increase, the traditional whaling industry will not survive, and the unique food culture will be lost," said Mihira.
The vending machines are just the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at increasing consumption of the product including subsidizing its use in school lunches, creating recipe cards and promoting its use in restaurants.
Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2019 and resumed commercial whaling within Japan's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), ending the so-called "scientific era" of whaling in which the catches were supposedly only made for research purposes.
- From Greenpeace to Nutreco to ASC, groups find much to criticize about 'Seaspiracy'
- Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson on salmon farms: 'Our objective is to shut them down'
- Norway called out for hypocrisy on ocean sustainability
- Seal gang's 'persistent' attacks on Scottish Salmon Company farm spark cries for more deterrence options