TOKYO, Japan: After struggling for years to promote its products amid protests from conservationists, Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku announced that it will offer the public whale meat vending machines to boost sales and attract new customers.
As part of the company's drive, an unmanned outlet of Kujira (Whale) Store that recently opened in Yokohama houses three machines selling whale sashimi, whale bacon, whale skin and whale steaks, as well as canned whale meat, with prices ranging from $7.70 to $23.
The outlet features white vending machines decorated with cartoon whales and is the third location to offer vending machines in the Japanese capital region, after two others opened in Tokyo earlier this year.
While whale meat has long caused controversy, Kyodo Senpaku said that sales in the new vending machines have so far been good.
Due to anti-whaling protests, Japan, in 2019, ended its much-criticized research hunts in the Antarctic, but the controversy has subsided and has resumed commercial whaling off the Japanese coasts.
Conservationists stressed that they are concerned that the move could expand whaling.
Nanami Kurasawa, head of the Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network, said, "The issue is not the vending machines themselves, but what they may lead to," as quoted by the Associated Press.
Kyodo Senpaku is already asking for additional catches to expand whaling outside of designated waters, he added.
Company spokesperson Konomu Kubo told The Associated Press that it aims to set up vending machines at 100 locations around Japan within five years, and a fourth site is to open in Osaka next month.
To cultivate demand, the company will open vending machines near supermarkets, where whale meat is usually unavailable, he added, noting that major supermarket chains have largely stayed away from whale meat to avoid protests by anti-whaling groups.
"As a result, many consumers who want to eat it cannot find or buy whale meat. We launched vending machines at unmanned stores for those people," he said, as reported by the Associated Press.