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Sunday, November 30, 2014


The train ride from Nagoya to Matsumoto was mesmerizing, with changing Fall colors and even snow:

But I'm here in Matsumoto to visit Pearl's Gold Koi.  You can click on that link for the details, but, in essence, while I was on one of my missions to drop Pearl's ashes at memorable sites, I happened to toss a gel cap with her ashes into the Matsumoto Castle moat, and a gold koi ate it!

It is a 20-minute walk, mostly uphill.  My first view of the moat was this:

There are, literally, thousands of koi, mostly black, with a few orange, but only one gold.  This could have been the highlight of my entire trip.

Matsumoto Castle:

I asked the info desk what was the ideal lunch in Matsumoto.  A soba restaurant was recommended, which was conveniently close to the walk back to Matsumoto Station.  Matsushita:

The soba was perfectly al dente.  The cost of the entire meal with hot soba soup and cold sake amounted to around $15.

The trip from Nagoya to Matsumoto to Tokyo is an easy one day trip involving five hours of train time:

I stored my luggage at the train station for $5 and had an enjoyable walk throughout Matsumoto.  The temperature was in the low 60's and it was mostly sunny.

Well, I'm back at the Tokyo Westin, and the staff at the Executive Club arranged for me to have a fugu dinner tomorrow night.  It is also known as blowfish, puffer and tetrodon.  In the 1930's a thousand people died, for the liver and ovaries are deadly poisonous.  Tetrodotoxin is 100 times more potent than potassium cyanide. In 1958 when chefs were first licensed, 176 died that year.  However, as recently as 2007, only three passed away, and those who succumb tended to be fishermen who catch the fish and cook it at home.  However, here is a news article of 7 falling ill in a Hokkaido restaurant by consuming the testicles.  There is a testicle story I'll re-tell tomorrow, for that is the item I especially requested.


Saturday, November 29, 2014


Back at the Westin Nagoya Castle, I asked the concierge to recommend the best unagi restaurant for dinner.  Her first choice involved a half an hour taxi ride, where no reservations are taken. Then Shirakawa, but I made that scene earlier today.  So I settled for #3, Bincho, on the 7th floor of La Chic:

I ordered their standard unagi set meal with a glass of beer and a flask of hot sake:

Absolutely my best unagi meal in my life.  Come to think of of it, this is the first unagi restaurant I've ever experienced.  Basically, you are coached to eat in four stages:

  • Place about a fourth of the unagi/rice into a bowl, and just eat it.
  • Have another fourth, apply the green onions and wasabi, mix, and consume.
  • A third fourth, and add tea.
  • The final fourth, repeat the best of the three.  As I ran out of ingredients, I just ate the fourth fourth.
When I first walked in, the place was packed with only my reserved table left open.  The whole meal cost around $40.  When I left, there was a long line waiting to get in.  However, here, you sit:

My view when I returned to my room:

 A wonderful day in Nagoya.  The following morning I had my farewell breakfast feast:

Salsa salad, two soups (corn and miso, with a large tofu), curry and over easy egg over rice, abariki, ham, bacon, salmon, tsukemono and juices of applesauce/honey and orange/calpis.  Of course, Nagoya Castle in the far background.

Today, on to Matsumoto and Pearl's Gold Koi:


Friday, November 28, 2014


My day started with a Japanese breakfast at St. Regis:

On the Shinkansen to Nagoya, I thought I'd again try a tonkatsu:

Big mistake.  As cold Macdonald's french fries are awful, worse is a tonkatsu bento.  Well, I checked into the Westin Nagoya Castle, and this my room is my spectacular view:

The castle was built 400 years ago, partially destroyed in World War II, but remains largely the original.

Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan, is known for unagi, teriyaki Japanese freshwater eel on rice.  So I asked the concierge of a lunch location ideal for me.  I was sent to Shirakawa, which was a 20 minute walk.  It was closed.  So I bought at 7/11 (yes, they have them in Japan) a fat arabiki (Japanese sausage) and a bottle of Smirnov orange drink, walked back to Nagoya Castle, and enjoyed my lunch.  

I then leisurely strolled around the castle grounds, which must have been at least two miles.  A few photos:

There was something striking about the green.  A few animals:


FALL CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE: Day #26B: Best Italian Restaurant in Osaka?

The butler staff of the Osaka St. Regis made a reservation of what they thought was the best Italian restaurant in Osaka:  Mode di Ponte Vecchio:

I started with some limoncello in champagne, and the initial offering, a salad, was spectacular:

This was my best salad of this trip, with warm pieces of grilled fish hidden in the mix.  I added a Japanese owned Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (New Zealand) and a Barolo from Italy:

The next dish was a caviar from Italy over a kind of mashed potato:

Excellent, but the caviar had no taste.  Next was abalone and chanterelle mushrooms with truffles:

I thought, strange, no taste of truffles.  They were very accommodating on my next dish, a spaghetti agli olio with anchovies, a slice of raw onion and six basil leaves, with shaved black truffles:

It was terrific, except for one problem.  Their black truffles had no "truffle" taste.  My server said these truffles are from France.  Okay, so my finale, I had white truffles shaved over a mushroom risotto:

You can see that the white truffles are piled onto the risotto.  However, ABSOLUTELY NO TRUFFLE TASTE.  Nothing like the white truffles I had in Rome, which remains as my best one dish I've ever had in my life.

Frankly, I was disappointed.  Maybe this is why I go to Michelin 3-Star and Pellegrino Best 50 restaurants, for you do get the very best at those.  Mode di Ponte Vecchio is not ranked, anywhere.  If this is the best Italian restaurant in Osaka, well...  I should state that Trip Advisor thinks very highly of this establishment.

To close, though, the NON-truffle Italian food here was excellent.  If I did not add the truffle options, I would have paid half as much and would have been very much satisfied.  Ponte Vecchio needs to do something about getting real truffles!

My next posting as part two of Day #26 will be Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto at peak Fall colors.


FALL CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2014: Day #25A--What About Whale Shark Steaks?

My previous posting had to do with the work being conducted by Kinki University on the Pacific Bluefin Tuna.  The problem with any tuna is that it feeds at a high trophic level:

Sharks would be at an even higher feeding level, as they eat tuna.  The importance of this graphic is that up the chain, 90% of the mass is sacrificed at each step up the trophic level.  Thus, if you begin with limited nutrients, as in an Ultimate Ocean Ranch, you can produce 5x10x10x10 = 5,000 more fish if you find a marketable species that consumes nutrients at the lowest trophic level (plankton) than tuna.  Of course, we humans, when we consume shark fin soup, not only waste 99% of the fish, but are feeding in a ratio range of one in a million.  To the left is Shimizu's rendering of an underwater city, which someday might support an ocean ranch.

It turns out that Yu-chan, the new Osaka whale shark, although a shark (note, NOT a whale) is a filter feeder, and sucks in plankton.  Also, too, krill and small nektonic life.  So, theoretically, in a future ultimate ocean ranch, you could produce somewhere around 5,000 times more seafood mass with a species such as a whale shark when compared to bluefin or any other tuna.  Modern Farmer earlier this year reported on this concept.

A couple of decades ago I proposed the prospects of developing a project with National Sun Yat Sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to cultivate the rabbit fish and whale shark for commercialization in a sea ranch.  The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Hengchun, near their campus, had at that time two whale sharks.  Both the rabbit fish, which I've tasted (excellent), and the whale shark (consumed in China--left), survive at the lowest trophic level.  

Unexpectedly, my previous posting on whale shark steaks is now my 5th most read article (see list in right column).  It is suspected that some of the fins sold in Chinese markets are so large that they must come from whale sharks.  So at least we know that the soup quality is fine.  The flesh?  As it is known as tofu fish, not sure what this means.

There are, of course, various varieties of rabbit fish, mostly black, but here are a couple of more attractive ones:

However, there will be a huge hurdle to cross for the world to embrace the whale shark as a substitute for land cattle.  I mean, can you really eat Yu-chan?  That's like having Bambi for dinner.  Yet, venison is regularly served in many of the finer restaurants around the world.
In addition, there is considerable controversy about whales and sharks today.  To be perfectly clear, a whale shark is a shark.  However, that same aquarium in Taiwan has recently made headlines by shipping their whale sharks to Georgia.  Recently, Norton passed away in the Taiwan national aquarium and they sent off Ralph to the Georgia Aquarium, and he too died.  However, Taroko and Yushan are appearing to do well after the shipment.  Georgia Aquarium:

Here is how an Ultimate Ocean Ranch would work.  That light green cell to the left would serve as the habitat.  Deep ocean fluids to operate the OTEC cycle are at 5 F and very high in nutrients.  This upwelling shows promise for initiating the growth cycle.  Kind of akin to having free fertilizer and irrigation, of course, for  everything occurs in the ocean.  The system would if designed properly feed itself.  In time a mechanism will be developed to keep the sea ranch occupants in place without using cages (temperature, nutrient, or whatever barriers would be considered).  Ocean robotics would be utilized to keep predators away and to maintain the whale shark in the cool cell.

A female whale shark can give birth to 300 pups:

At the age of one, the pup grows to 8 feet.  Again, this sounds so morbid--Yu-chan, pups, bambi--but the ranch would harvest at this stage.  Consider that a typical beef cattle takes a year and a half or two to reach market, and the mother has, mostly, only one calf/year.  Not sure about the gestation period for whale sharks, but 300 versus one is an attractive advantage for commercialism.  What makes this all so convincing is that beef is about as inefficient a commodity as you can grow, for the carbon dioxide footprint is horrendous and the energy utilized to bring that rib eye to your table is off the charts.  Just as three examples:
  • nearly half of the water used in the USA goes to raising animals for food
  • one calorie of animal protein uses 11 calories of fossil fuels
  • 70% of grains grown in the U.S. are fed to animals
  • 16 pounds of grain produce one pound of meat
  • 5 pounds of rest fish are fed to one pound of farmed fish (thus, it makes supreme sense for the ultimate ocean ranch to feed itself)

Whale sharks are estimated to live a hundred years, if not longer.  No, there is no such thing as that creature below.

So, are there any prospects for whale shark R&D on the Pacific International Ocean Station?  Any interest from Kinki University or Sun Yat SeUniversity?  Or Toyota?