Fynn Juergen Holm

Ph. D. Candidate,

The University of Zurich 


Fynn Holm is Teaching Assistant in Social Science of Japan at the University of Zurich. He is writing his doctoral thesis “Hunting with the Gods of the Sea: Anti-Whaling Movements in Northeast Japan, 1600-1912”at the interdisciplinary University Priority Research Program: Asia and Europe in Zurich. Holm received a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Law in 2011 from the University of Basel. In 2015, he graduated with a Master’s Degree in History and Japanese Studies from the University of Zurich. In 2013/14, he studied at the Meiji University in Tokyo as an exchange student. In 2017, Holm worked for six-months as a visiting researcher at the Tohoku University in Sendai, with the financial support of a Research Fellowship from the Canon Foundation.

“Burning down the Whaling Station: Anti-Whaling Movements in Northeast Japan”

Recent scholarship has highlighted the economic and social importance of pre-modern whaling enterprises in western Japan. However, what has so far been neglected in the literature was the anti-whaling sentiments of fishermen in many other Japanese regions, particular in the Northeast. Tensions between fishermen and whalers led near Hachinohe in Aomori prefecture to the complete destruction of a whaling station in 1911. In this paper, I argue that these riots were not only rooted in the fishermen’s fear of loss due to modernization, but can be traced back to the early Edo period, when northern fishermen began to systematically reject all western Japanese attempts to introduce whaling at their coast. For the fishermen whales provided important ecosystem services, as they believed whales would bring sardines closer to the shore. Furthermore, the fishermen feared that the introduction of whaling would degenerate the coastal ecosystem on which they depended. I argue that a distinct anti-whaling culture existed in northern Honshu, which can not only be traced in petitions and scholarly documents, but also in distinct cultural and religious representations of whales. Exploring different value systems regarding whales helps us to better understand economic and ecological regional differences in pre-modern Japan.

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