Whaling in Japan, in the sense of non-industrial whale hunting, began in the 12th century, but Japanese whaling in the modern sense began in the 1890s when Japan began to participate in the modern whaling industry, at that time an industry in which many people from many countries participated. Modern Japanese whaling activities have usually extended outside Japanese territorial waters.
During the 20th century, Japan was heavily involved in commercial whaling until the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986. Japan continued to hunt whales using the scientific research provision in the agreement, and Japanese whaling is currently conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research. The meat from these scientific whale hunts is then sold in shops and restaurants. This is allowed under IWC rules, although most IWC members oppose it. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the Japanese whaling program in the Southern Ocean is not for scientific purposes and has ordered that Japanese whaling in Antarctic waters cease immediately.
These hunts are a source of conflict between pro- and anti-whaling countries and organizations. Nations, scientists and environmental organizations opposed to whaling consider the Japanese research program to be unnecessary at best and a thinly disguised commercial whaling operation at worst.
Japan maintains that annual whaling is sustainable and necessary for scientific study and management of whale stocks. Japan also argues that objections to whaling are based upon cultural differences and emotional anthropomorphism. ********* whales!