Digital Whale Museum

Traditional tools

Various tools were used in whaling.
At the watch tower Yamami, binoculars were used to watch for whales. The watch tower would signal once a whale spout was spotted. The watch tower Yamami and the boats used various flags and Triton’s trumpet shells to communicate with each other.
Variety of harpoons were used in whaling. The order of throwing was defined, starting from small ones that can fly far and hit the whales, to larger harpoons.
Let's take a look at the traditional whaling tools.

Signaling flags

Yamami informs the whaling boats about sea conditions along with the types and the locations of whales.


Hogei dogu koshiki hata amizai


Hogei dogu koshiki hata sekosai

“Kujira-bune jirushi”

Hogei dogu koshiki hata kujirabunejirusi

“Chu-shin jirushi”

Hogei dogu koshiki hata tyuusinnjirusi

“Zato-kujira no shirushi” or sign of humpback whales

Hogei dogu koshiki hata zatou

“Semi-kujira no shirushi” or sign of North Pacific right whales

Hogei dogu koshiki hata semi

Triton’s trumpet

A horn is blown from Yamami to alert the boats when a whale is spotted.

Hogei dogu koshiki horagai

Sasayaki-zutsu - The Whispering Pipe

A loudspeaker is used to communicate with the whaling boats that are close by.

Hogei dogu koshiki sasayakidutu

Harpoons and knives


The First Thrown Harpoon

Hogei dogu koshiki mori hayamori


Large harpoons are thrown at whales from boats.

Hogei dogu koshiki mori tegatamori


The harpoons are tied to anchors and barrels to stop the whale.

Hogei dogu koshiki mori ikarimori


The Largest Harpoon

Hogei dogu koshiki yorozumori


Large knives are used to carve whales.

Hogei dogu koshiki nagae

“Ken” or sword

Blades are used to finish off the tired whales.

Hogei dogu koshiki ken

“Hanakiri-boucho” or “Tegata-boucho”

A knife is tied to a rope to pierce the blowhole.

Hogei dogu koshiki mori hocho

Modern tools for whaling

These are the modern whaling tools

Tsubame Mori (Swallow Harpoon)

Resembles a regular American improved toggle harpoon, though much smaller and thinner.

Hogei dogu kindai tsubamemori

Darting Gun Harpoon

Made in America, the harpoon is equipped with darting gun that shoots explosive harpoon. On hitting the target whale, the impact triggers the darting gun to shoot the explosive harpoon, which explodes inside the whale to give fatal damage.

Hogei dogu kindai bomb

Shoulder Gun made in Japan

A precise copy of the C.C.Brand No.2 shoulder gun by a japanese gunsmith. Several copies by the same hand have been found in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Hogei dogu kindai shoulder

Hogei dogu kindai shoulder 2

90mm Cannon

This cannon was on display at the Shionomisaki Tower on Cape Shionomisaki until it was donated to the Taiji Whale Museum in 2009.

Hogei dogu kindai 90mmcannon

Maeda Triple-Barreled Whaling Gun

Invented by Kenzo Maeda, the triple-barreled gun shoots 3 harpoons at a time.

Hogei dogu kindai maeda 3

Maeda Quintuple-Barreled Whaling Gun

Kanezo Maeda’s descendant owned a photograph, the image of which is the same image of this postcard. It carried a date, September 21, 1919, on the back, the date it was photographed.

Hogei dogu kindai maeda 5