Kayoi Whale Museum and Poet Misuzu Kaneko

HOME Whale and Dolphin
Travel Vol. 001

Kayoi Whale Museum

Date taken / April 10, 2016

This time, I visited a place called "Kayoi" on Aomijima Island in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is famous for the annual "Kayoi Whale Festival" held in July, but other than that, it is a remote fishing town. In the center of this remote fishing town was the Whale Museum.

The Whale Museum was right in front of us after we got off the bus in front of the Kayoi Fishing Cooperative, a 30-minute ride from Nagato City Station. In the shadows of the building, a huge humpback whale appeared as if it was hiding in plain sight. It was a papier-mâché whale placed in the plaza of the Whale Museum. It was probably used for the whale festival. In front of it, the tail fin of a humpback whale is mounted on a pedestal, and the following sentence is written on the nameplate set into the pedestal.

Friendship / In Kayoi-ura, whaling began around 1673 under the net-taking method, and the area was the center of whaling in Choshu until the end of the Meiji period. In the 5th year of Genroku (1692), a grave for whales was built in Seigetsu-an, located on the left-hand side of the mountain, by the warm-hearted seafarers who wished to express their gratitude for the whales they caught. In the cemetery, more than seventy embryos of whales lie forever in the ground with dreams of the great ocean still unseen.
(March 1991, Nagato City Board of Education)

The first thing you see when you enter the museum are two poems about whales by Misuzu Kaneko, "Whale Memorial Service" and "Whale Catching. "The "Whale Memorial Service" is displayed in the hall as you enter the museum, and the sadness of whale hunting can be felt along with the nameplate at the entrance, which reads "Heartfelt.




The Whale memorial service is at the end of spring,
the time of the flying fish harvest.
When the bell at the seaside temple is struck.
it's sound rippling across the watre.
the village fishermen in their best clothes.
hurry for the temple on the shore.
while alone in the open sea, a whale child weeps in longing for its dead father and mother.
How far the bell resounds across the waters.

As I was being moved by Misuzu's poem, a stocky old man of medium height asked me if I would like an explanation. It was Mr. Hayakawa, the director of the Nagato City Whale Museum.
Speaking of Mr. Hayakawa, among the materials in the museum that I was looking around just now, there was an introduction to the Hayakawa family, the mansion of an ex-amimoto of old-style whaling. Before we came to the museum, it was not yet open, so after getting off the bus in front of the fishermen's cooperative, we walked along the seaside embankment on the opposite side of the museum and saw a sign for the Hayakawa family residence standing alone in the parking lot along the road. I followed the sign and found a white-walled entrance to the house on a street that led off from the seaside road, with a large sign saying "Hayakawa Residence.

I tried to call out to him, but he didn't seem to be home. I went around to the back of the house and tried to call out, but no one seemed to be there.

"By any chance, is Director Hayakawa a former Amimoto ......?"

As expected, the answer was "yes". The director of the Whale Museum, Yoshikatsu Hayakawa, was the 18th generation head of the Hayakawa family, the leader of the former whaling group in this area. When I told him that I had visited his house before coming here, but he was not home, he said, "Well, when the lady at the reception desk comes back from her lunch break, let's go together. She said she would show me the inside of the house.

In the meantime, we listened to the "Kayoi Whale Song" sung by the museum director. This is a celebratory song sung at the Whale Festival, an intangible cultural asset of Nagato City. The reason why the song is sung with hands rubbing together instead of clapping is because it is a song of mourning for the whales that lost their lives and the calves and unborn babies that lost their young lives along with them. With the director's permission, I was able to take a video of the ceremony, which you can see below.

A Song to mourn a Whale. ( 63second )

The figure on the left shows whaling tools. The figure on the right is a route map of whales passing off the coast of Kayoi.

A net is set up in the path of the whale, and the whale is driven into the enclosure of the net by striking the edge of the boat with a hunting stick.

The fishermen harpooned the whale, which had become entangled in the net and was unable to move.