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Thursday, May 1, 2014

MUFA Day#25: Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology...plus

President Tadashi Matsunaga provided a personal tour of his campus, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Nokodai, yesterday.  His presidential office on the Fuchu Campus is huge.  This is a rich national university because they have so much land to leverage, including selling pieces off to accomplish monumental goals.

The first stop was at their research facility where their professors have doubled the production of blueberries and other farm commodities by "fooling" the plant into quicker seasons.  Some of this work is already being commercialized, and the potential is to triple the crop harvest.  The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority experienced similar results by having two crops of Chardonnay grapes as soon as at the age of three by varying the flow rate of cold deep ocean water (through thin tubes, where water from the atmosphere condenses, thus also providing irrigation) placed next to the root system of the vine, where the plant is deluded into accelerating their growth.  Apparently, the sensors being deceived are in the roots, not above ground.  This is the agricultural Fuchu Campus:


We then visited the engineering Koganei Campus, where we stopped through their newly upgraded Nature and Science Museum and learned two monumental accomplishments:
  • Much is exhibited about the history of the silk industry in Japan, which kick-started their modern industry.  For example, here is some of the automation built by Nissan almost a century ago to manufacture silk.  Nissan (and Toyota) began their operations not with cars but silk machines:
Note the Nissan logo.  Here I am with President Matsunaga and Museum Director Norihiro Umeda.


  • We saw an exhibit featuring Professor Akira Endo of Nokodai, who "invented" statins to treat high cholesterol.  He is soon slated to win a Nobel Prize.

Interesting that Japanese universities are permitted to sell products developed on their campus, here using Nokodai as the selling brand, as, for example, sochu.

Nokodai is 140 years old.  There are 4,000 undergraduates and 2,000 postgraduates, including 400 international students.  Matsunaga himself has mentored more than 50 PhD students, who have formed a Matsunaga mafia throughout the country.  The Matsunaga biotechnology laboratory currently has around 50 students doing research.

The next stop was Black Cat, a Japanese restaurant featuring the best sushi and wild boar sukiyaki:


We started with beer, then went on to sake and two kinds of sochu, one, of course being from Nokodai.  The larger bottle is a Nakamura sochu, and, frankly tasted very mellow and mild.  Almost un-sochu-tasting.  We discussed how the Nokodai sochu needs to be improved to the Nakamura quality.  But that was not the end of the evening, for the next stop was Azumi, an interesting concept.  Almost like a traditional Ginza type karaoke bar, but featuring staffers who are accomplished musical artists.  Here we are in the middle of a Mozart concert:


Another later sang opera.  Here we had a bottle of bordeaux and some Chivas Regal.

Finally back at Compass Rose with my Nikka Yoichi 20-Year Old Whiskey with a Cuban:


Sitting close to me was a newlywed (tonight--and they will move to Kazakstan this Fall) couple, so I invited them to join me for some Yoichi.  We talked for a long time and I learned so much about the current young generation:


Sato and Lisa invited me to join them today for a soba lunch:



What a fine way to end my Japan visit, for I next taxi to the Crystal Symphony, departing tonight for Honolulu.

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