Tokyo: Ganso Kujiraya [2016.01.22]

I’d like to start off this post by saying that I contemplated real long before finally deciding to eat at Ganso Kujiraya.

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I was originally on the hunt for this curry restaurant in Shibuya because I had read about it being an old school Japanese curry joint. But, apparently I wasn’t reading too hard as Murugi, the curry joint, closes at 3pm every day. By the time I had gotten my bum down to Shibuya and “made my way” (shopped looked in various clothing stores en route from the train station to the restaurant) to Murugi, it was well past 3:00p. It was more like 9:00p. Also, it was probably that late because I made a pit stop for ice cream. Yeah, dessert before dinner, what?

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My first, but not last, meeting with cremia – the soft serve with 12.5% of carefully chosen Hokkaido milk and 25% of heavy whipped in a langue de chats cone.

Anyways, back to the story – so, what’s a girl to do but start making her way to some of the other restaurants she had starred in her Google Maps? When I passed Kujiraya (wasn’t even starred on my map, swear) it was like 9:30p and I paused in front of the restaurant…in my head I was thinking what are the chances that the other restaurant I’m heading to will be closed by the time I get there…I mean, I was hungry. The other restaurants I had starred in the area were all still 15 minutes away (and that’s if I don’t get lost looking for it). Look, I hate wasting a meal on a non-previously researched restaurant (because Tokyo has so many yum places to eat) but at least Kujiraya would be an interesting only-in-Japan experience.

So, I contemplated. Outside the restaurant. In the cold. For a solid 5 minutes. Then I decided to go in and look at the menu.

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Then, I contemplated. Inside the restaurant. Staring at the menu. For a solid 10 minutes before deciding what the hellwhen in Rome, right?

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So Kujiraya is a traditional whale-only restaurant that has been opened since 1950. For those that don’t know, there is massive controversy around the Japanese whaling industry. Whale consumption isn’t just done by the Japanese, but it seems that they are probably the most associated with the controversial practice. There are many reasons why one would be against the practice of killing whales for consumption purposes, from environmental to ethical. Then there’s the whole hoopla around the Japanese finding a legal loophole after commercial whaling was banned in 1986 that allowed them to continue whaling on the premise that they were “conducting research”.

The Japanese though, argues that whaling is part of their culture and heritage. There were generations of Japanese children that grew up eating whale post WWII because of the poor economy and high food scarcity.

I think there are probably some legitimacy to some of the arguing points on both sides of the battle. I like this Wired article on the subject, some choice quotes from the article about the main arguments used in defence/against whaling:

From the Japanese perspective, banning whaling before banning the killing of other animals is a bit logically inconsistent. If your argument is about conservation, then bluefin tuna, a far more important part of the Japanese diet, is also far more endangered.

If your argument is that hunting whales is cruel, so is factory farming. If your argument is that whales are smart, so are pigs. None of this amounts to a case for eating whales, of course, but the argument to single out whales for protection is not exactly airtight either.

I’m not going to get into it here because I don’t want to write no essay. You’ve got your own opinions, I’ve got mine. Doe, if you’re super against the idea of a human consuming whale meat out of curiosity, then you should probably stop reading.

But.

I do have to say, as someone that enjoys consuming delicious food, this meat ain’t good.

I ordered whale sashimi (¥880) and whale tempura (¥780) with a side of rice for ¥2116 (which equates to roughly $25 CAD).

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The sashimi was this really deep red and was quite bloody. Like, it left a pool of blood on the plate. But, I don’t really have a problem with that. I have a problem with the meat itself. It was extremely tasteless. Like zero taste. What I’d probably imagine raw beef, not seasoned as a tartare or carpaccio, would taste like. Plus the meat was not thawed. Like semi-frozen. Like I was eating a super meaty popsicle that had been sitting out in the sun for a short amount of time.

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Now, I don’t know if the frozenness is because that it is a massive mammal and needs to stay slightly frozen so that it is still safe to eat raw….does anyone know if this is the case?

Regardless. Not yum town.

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The tempura whale meat…also tasteless, except now it’s coated in this thin layer of oily batter. It was so chewy and meaty. I’d imagine this is how the Japanese elders keep their jaw and teeth strength up. The doctor prescribes: gnaw on a piece of whale meat a day to keep your jaw muscle active.

And from an asian perspective, there’s not even like magical restorative bull crap that is associated with it like other controversial noms (like shark fin and snake blood).

So, why eat it?

It is not tasty.
It doesn’t have magical rejuvenation powers.
It draws global condemnation.
It is not even being consumed that much by the Japanese.
It is not economical (huge government subsidies goes into the industry).

Oh yeah, politics.

So, do I regret eating here? From a taste perspective? Yeah, I wish I would’ve walked a bit further down for normal sashimi. For an experimental perspective? Naaah, curiosity has been tamed and severely disappointed.

Author’s note: don’t waste your precious meal slots here.

GANSO KUJIRAYA
Address: 2 Chome-29-22 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043, Japan
Telephone: 03(3461)9145
Open: 11:30a –10:30p (11:30p Fri + Sat; Closed Mon)

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