Whale research facility to be built in Taiji, Wakayama Pref.

Courtesy of the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture
A conceptual image of what is tentatively called the “international cetacean facility”

The town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, will start the construction of what it tentatively calls an “international cetacean facility,” which it hopes will serve as a base for cetacean research and for sharing related information. Following its completion, the town plans to hold international conferences on whales.

Construction of the facility is to be completed in March 2022. The town plans to open it in autumn the same year.

Taiji is known as the birthplace of “ancient-style whaling,” a method of catching a whale by driving it into nets and harpooning it when it becomes entangled in them. In a bid to gain more understanding of whales and whaling culture around the world, the town has been moving ahead with a 30-year plan to create a “town of cetacean science.” The facility is expected to serve a central function in this project.

The facility will be constructed on a plot of town-owned land on high ground, 25 to 30 meters above sea level, in the southern part of the town. It will be a two-story ferroconcrete building with 1,895 square meters of floor space. To harmonize with the landscape of Yoshino-Kumano National Park, the facilities’ ceilings will be built with wood from the Kishu district while the exterior walls will be mostly glass.

The first floor of the building will be used as an area for research. Its library will include about 38,000 books, academic publications and other materials on the subject of whales, and there will also be a study-and-training room with a capacity of about 100 people.

Also to be on display are such valuable materials as those contributed by the Institute of Cetacean Research’s Ayukawa experimental station, which was located in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, but closed in 2012 after being damaged in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The library will also be open to the public. The second floor of the building will be used for the storage of books and related materials. The entire project will cost about ¥1.1 billion.

The town hopes the facility will serve as one of the world’s leading bases for whale research, which could also help bring positive publicity to the town.