Photo/IllutrationYuko Tajima, foreground left, a curator at Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science, inspects the rare blue whale carcass on a beach in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Aug. 6. (Yuka Orii)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KAMAKURA, Kanagawa Prefecture--A dead whale that washed ashore here two days ago was identified Aug. 6 as a calf of a rare blue whale.

An expert from Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science examined the 10.52-meter-long carcass and noted its distinctive fins and signature grooves.

Blue whales are designated as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The largest of all animal species, an adult blue whale can grow to 30 meters in length and weigh 170 tons.

Yuko Tajima, a curator at the museum and specialist in marine mammalogy, said it is unprecedented for a blue whale to wash ashore in Japan.

She added that the specimen appeared to be male and was probably born in January or later.

Civil engineers were called on Aug. 6 to haul the whale carcass onto hugely popular Yuigahama beach for a closer examination.

The museum is expected to transfer it to a facility in Shizuoka Prefecture for closer observation.

Blue whale sightings are rare, so it is difficult to estimate their numbers.

Blue whales used to be hunted in Japanese coastal waters.

Video footage of the whale that washed ashore is available on (