Japan’s Answer to Amazon Is a One-Stop Shop for Ivory and Whale Meat

The World
How It Works
March 20 2014 1:52 PM

Japan’s Answer to Amazon Is a One-Stop Shop for Ivory and Whale Meat

Whale sushi made from a lump of minke meat and pieces of blubber is served in the Japanese whaling town Ayukawahama, Miyagi prefecture.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce marketplace and often described as one of Amazon’s major global competitors, is also one of the world’s leading purveyors of endangered species products, according to the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

A report released by the group this week found that “a search for ‘whale meat’ on www.rakuten.co.jp yielded 773 whale products for sale, while the broader term ‘whale’ generated over 1,200 food products.” Meanwhile, “searches for ‘ivory’ on www.rakuten.co.jp yielded more than 28,000 ads for elephant ivory products.”


Despite international condemnation, the hunting of whales for food continues in Japan thanks to a legal loophole that allows a limited amount of whaling for “scientific” purposes. As the report shows, much of this scientific research in fact ends up as whale steaks, whale jerky, and whale curry.

As for ivory, 95 percent of the products for sale on the site were hankos, “used by individuals and companies to sign documents with their signatures engraved into the ivory.” Much of this ivory likely comes from illegal elephant hunting in central Africa—a practice with some serious consequences for humans as well as elephants. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.