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However, whaling remained entwined with ritual and unlike their contemporary European counterparts the early Japanese coastal whalers considered whales a valuable resource and did not over-exploit local stocks.
Domestically, Japanese writers have tried to call attention to historical whale declines due to whaling practices by other nations over hundreds of years, some of which continue today, and assert that motives and objectives of Japanese whaling customs differ from other nations.
In the early 20th century, Jūrō Oka dominated the whale meat market in Japan with assistance and instruction from Norwegian whalers and their leased or purchased ships.
Another boost was provided by the capture of a Russian whaling fleet and subsequent transfer to Toyo Gyo Gyo Co. As Japan's whaling industry expanded into new territory, including Korean waters, ship production and oil processing, Oka's company (renamed Toyo Hogei K.
This decline of coastal stocks resulted not only in financial solvency of many industrial groups but also in disputes between feudal domains in western Japan that required the intervention of the shogunate.
As early as the Edo period, Japanese writers may have tried to call attention to overkill by American and Norwegian whalers, whose hunting practices led to depletion of whale populations, and the tragedy called Semi-nagare, an incident in which over 100 Taiji whalers were lost in the ill-timed pursuit of the only two whales they had seen in December 1878.
During the 20th century, Japan was heavily involved in commercial whaling.
This continued until the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986.
Oka later became the first president of the Japan Whaling and Fishing Association, established in 1908.
Oka traveled the world gathering information about whaling practices including to Norway for harpoons, cannons and expertise.
He also established the first modern whaling company in Japan in 1899, Nihon Enyo Gyogyo K. which took its first whale on February 4, 1900, with a Norwegian gunner, Morten Pedersen.
Wada Chubei Yorimoto established a fishery by organizing the group hunting system in 1606.
Whalers would spot whales from stations along the shore and launch boats to catch them with harpoons and lances.