Musashi Mix Inq

Palliativity 127: Whale and Moonshine

Posted on June 2, 2011

drink up

A few years ago I interviewed a woman who was an adolescent in Japan during WWII. Hana’s laughter and kind eyes belied her traumatic stories of a child’s perspective in hell:

I learned from Hana that the Japanese obsession with eating whale is wrapped-up in her generation’s nostalgia for the war years. As the war dragged on, the Japanese government realized that they did not have enough food to feed its people for the long haul.

The arrived upon solution was to use naval vessels to hunt whales en-mass and to ignite a propaganda campaign hailing whale meat as the healthiest food for the children of Japan. Almost everyday at lunch, whale was served in school cafeterias across the country. So began a deep longing for the last days of Japanese dignity.

During the war, sake was also in low supply. It was not uncommon for Japanese to drink grain alcohol or fuel and engine cleaner mixed with left-over rice-water. Even today you can still find mason-jar sake for sale all across Japan.

Hana recalled her school-days in Kyoto, early 1945. Up until this point, the children at her school were told that the war was going well and that Japan continued to gloriously prevail over the West. Suddenly, reports of failure and the imminent eradication of Japan drowned all hopes.

One day, all of her classmates were told to report to the schoolyard.

They were each handed a sharpened bamboo pole.

Classroom time was over.

Now they only drilled on how to kill Americans.

• • •

“Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them is surely damnation.”

– Lois McMaster Bujold –

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