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Rare whale meat barbecue restaurant spreads food culture

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- A rare restaurant serving whale meat barbecue has recently opened in Osaka, stressing low-calorie, low-fat food, amid dwindling domestic consumption of whale meat under international whaling regulations.

    The restaurant "Kujiraya" -- literally a whale meat store -- opened in front of a busy railroad station, introduces various ways to eat whale, including raw "sashimi" and one-pot meals, while providing rare parts of whales such as tongue.

    Whale meat was once a common dish including for school lunch menus in Japan but has disappeared from the dinner table as domestic consumption of whale meat shrank to several thousand tons a year from around 200,000 tons in 1960s as consumers opted for cheaper imported meats.

    "It was a nostalgic taste I used to enjoy at home and at my school lunch in my childhood," said a male customer in his 60s.

    "Its taste and chewiness differ depending on the cut of meat. I think it's good for my skin too," said a female customer in her 40s.

    Many supermarkets and department stores in Japan are seen hesitant about dealing in whale meat amid long-standing debate on whaling in the international community.

    According to Syuhari Co., the operator of the restaurant, it has become difficult to suggest to restaurants various ways to eat whale meat as the number of wholesalers has decreased.

    "We would like to protect our food culture by directly sending out information on real deliciousness (of whale meat)," said Shigeru Fujimoto, sales manager of Syuhari, which also processes whale meat products.

    The company plans to open a second whale meat barbecue restaurant by the end of the year.

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