Takeshima sea lions performed in 1940s Japan

Japanese sea lions, which lived near the Takshima islets in Shimane Prefecture before their extinction, were once popular at amusement parks in the Kansai region, according to an investigation by the Shimane prefectural government.

The government found three tourism brochures printed around 1940. They are rare documents about the rearing of Japanese sea lions that also show a connection between the Takeshima islets and people of the time, the government said.

There are documents indicating that sea lions had been hunted around the Takeshima islets since the Edo era (1603-1868), according to the government and others. When the Meiji government incorporated the island into the prefecture in 1905, the prefectural government introduced a hunting license system. For a certain period, about 2,000 sea lions were hunted annually. But after World War II, the hunting ended due to effective control of the islets by South Korea.

The prefectural government's research group on Takeshima issues, led by Prof. Masao Shimojo of Takushoku University, discovered brochures at a secondhand bookstore in the Kyushu region from late last year to July. Two were for Hanshin Park, an amusement park in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, that closed in 2003. One featured a photo of sea lions leaping out of the water, while the other reads "Sea lions show you the most difficult acrobatic move of all-handstands."

The third brochure, which contained an illustration of sea lions, was for Osaka City Zoo (now Tennoji Zoo).

The sea lions at Hanshin Park are believed to have been taken to the park via a trader in Kobe, while those of the zoo are believed to have been captured and taken there by zoo staff.