The move follows the nation's decision to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in December 2018. Namely, Japan will only hunt for profit in its own waters, which means it would end its controversial scientific whaling in sensitive locations such as the Antarctic.
Another group of five whaling vessels from the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association departed from a port in Kushiro, Hokkaido.
"The resumption of commercial whaling has been an ardent wish for whalers across the country", he said, adding that the practice would ensure "the culture and way of life will be passed on to the next generation". "The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about numerous animals bred on land and killed for food". "Whale meat is a traditional food in Japan and I would like many people to try and develop taste for it, especially younger people".
By Monday afternoon, one ship returned with a roughly 8 meter-long minke whale. It was winched up from the vessel and taken off to be weighed and butchered. Five other smaller ships will stay closer to the coast but also hunt minkes, in addition to 168 Baird's beaked and two other kinds of small whales they used to catch outside of IWC jurisdiction.
"This is a great day".
He said commercial whaling in Japanese waters was unlikely to have much of a future given dwindling subsidies and the shrinking market for whale meat.
Japan's last commercial hunt was in 1986, but it has continued whaling for what it says are research purposes. During this week's G20 summit in Osaka, celebrities like Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and primatologist Jane Goodall all joined the appeal directed at G20 leaders to stop Japan from returning to commercial whaling.
Japanese whaling fleets will set sail Monday morning, a day after Tokyo formally left the International Whaling Commission, with a quota of 52 minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales, the agency said.
"Australia successfully led a challenge in the International Court of Justice in 2014 that showed Japan's so-called scientific whaling was a sham".
"Many people [in Japan] eat whale, and hope the whaling industry is permanent", Yoshikawa said, according to the Asahi.
The hunts are likely to spark criticism from environmentalists and anti-whaling countries.
As Kai observed, the size of Japan's whaling industry is positively tiny.
Japan's annual supplies of about 4,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes amount to 40 gm to 50 gm for each citizen, or about the weight of half an apple. "The replacement would be about $200 million dollars and saner minds in the Japanese government insist this investment is non-productive".
A point of optimism all the same for those who prefer to see the glass half full: "It was a fantasy and now the fantasy is realized, notes to AFP Patrick Ramage, director of the marine conservation program of the International Fund for animal welfare (Ifaw)".
"It's a good decision for whales, it's a good decision for Japan, and it's a good decision for worldwide marine conservation", he said.