Whale meat arrives in Japan from Iceland
A ship with cargo of fin whales has docked in a port in Osaka. According to Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan, "The ship, named Alma, arrived on May 7 and we were informed in advance that it would carry whale meat to be unloaded at Osaka port."
"We don't know why Japan had to import such huge volume of whale meat," he added.
Previously, Iceland and Norway have fallen under a huge criticism for hunting whales despite an international moratorium. Japan continued to hunt whales for "scientific research".
Many observers have expressed skepticism saying that research is only an excuse to get whales for commercial use. In March, the UN ICJ ordered Japan to stop hunting whales.
"The International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment reaffirms that one of the purposes of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) is the sustainable exploitation of whale resources," the minister said in a statement last month.
"In light of this, Japan has confirmed its basic policy of pursuing the resumption of commercial whaling, by conducting research whaling, through the co-operation among the ministries concerned, based upon international law and scientific evidence in order to gather scientific data that is essential for the management of whale resources."
While Japan continues to get whale meat, the whale authority located in Fiji Dr Cara Miller shared their disappointment at the unwillingness of the country to change their policy towards this issue.
"Japan has undertaken scientific permit whaling in Antarctica since 1988 and in the North Pacific since 1994. Both programs were conducted under the International Whaling Commission scientific permit whaling loophole.
"The recent ICJ court case declared that such whaling activities were illegal. However, the court case was specific to the activities in Antarctica. That said, I feel the same arguments used to dismiss the validity of scientific whaling in the Antarctic are also applicable to the North Pacific."
A Japanese whaling fleet left port Saturday under tight security in the first hunt since the UN's top court last month ordered Tokyo to stop killing whales in the Antarctic.
Four ships departed from the fishing town of Ayukawa in the northeast, marking this season's start to a coastal whaling program not covered by the International Court of Justice's landmark ruling, which found Japan's Southern Ocean expedition was a commercial activity masquerading as research, AFP reports.
Some observers had predicted the Japanese government would use the cover of last month's court ruling to abandon what many have long considered the facade of a scientific hunt.
But Tokyo's decision to continue whaling was likely to set off a new battle with critics who had hoped the ruling would bring an end to a slaughter that the Japanese government has embraced as part of the island nation's cultural heritage.
Some Japanese politicians have derided criticism from abroad as little more than cultural imperialism by the West, while locals in Ayukawa expressed fears the court's decision could ultimately ruin their livelihoods.
There were, however, no protestors among the crowd; a far cry from the Antarctic hunt which saw sometimes violent clashes between Japanese whaling crews and activists trying to end the hunt.
The town on Japan's northeast coast was ravaged by Japan's 2011 tsunami and still bears the scars of the disaster. Local people say their small community's existence rests heavily on the hunt.
Tokyo called off the 2014-15 season for its Antarctic hunt, and said it would redesign the controversial whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific.
That would put Japan on a collision course with anti-whaling nations like Australia, which brought the case to the international court, arguing that Tokyo's research was aimed at skirting a ban on commercial whaling.
Japan has hunted whales under a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium that allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals, but has openly admitted that their meat made its way onto menus.
Tokyo has always maintained that it intended to prove the whale population was large enough to sustain commercial hunting. The coastal whaling program in places like Ayukawa is considered part of "research" whaling, but was not targeted at the court battle in The Hague.