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Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 JAPAN SAKURA ADVENTURE: Day 20--An Extraordinary Day in Tokyo

This is my final 36 hours in Tokyo before I return to Honolulu.  I woke up to a view of Mount Fuji:

I went down for breakfast and chose to eat outside, the only one to do so, for it was a bit chilly, especially with the intermittent winds:

My most visually stimulating breakfast on this trip.  But it was cold.

I thought I'd trot next door to Mitsukoshi to see what gift I could bring to my good pal Tadashi when I visit his campus this afternoon.  I saw this musk melon, and was astonished about the price:

If you do all the math, the price is $120...just for a cantaloupe-size melon.  I didn't think Tadashi would   particularly relish such a gift, for he is president of an agricultural university, Nokodai, or Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.  In the process I also bought a pork cutlet curry rice bento with a tiny can of beer, which I had for a late lunch with Mount Fuji (which you can't quite distinguish in the background):

So off I went to Nokodai, and got picked up by his car at the Kokubunji Station of the Chuo Line.  Here is President Tadashi Matsunaga:

(I might add that Yutsuna Takehara from the Public Relations Section of Nokodai sent me two photos she took, the one just above, and the shot of President Matsunaga and I below by the  Smart Mobility automobile.)  A world-class scholar, Professor Matsunaga was the founding editor of the Journal of Marine Biotechnology, nearly two decades ago served as the first International Professor for the Blue Revolution at the University of Hawaii, and is in his fifth year of a six year presidency.  Next month he will celebrate his 35th year at the Tokyo University of A&T, and I'm pondering whether I can squeeze in a return to Japan, for with the upcoming Napa golf week and two cataract operations, the timing will be difficult.  The primary speakers will be five professors who got their PhD under him and are good friends of mine.

One is Grant Burgess, now with the University of Newcastle, who in this posting related our experiences golfing at St. Andrews.  I should mention that at least four, if not all five, spent time at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and became known as the Matsunaga's Hawaii Mafia.  They could soon be controlling many research determining committees in Japan.

This was my second personalized tour, for I was here two years ago.   First, a visit to their Department of Veterinary Medicine, where the place look like a hospital with CAT Scan, MRI, name it.. mostly for dogs.  They do 800 operations per year.  Next door is their Laboratory of Veterinary Physiology, which looks like a horse racing stable.  The Japan Derby is held at the nearby track, and they are linked to the University of California at Los Angeles in producing miniature horses, which has a variety of uses, such as being an assistive animal, pets for children to ride, etc.  Susumo Ohno, who graduated from Nokodai, served as this horse-bridge between America and Japan.

Next, a mode of transport at the opposite end of progress, driverless car research:

I drove their driving simulator to better appreciate how technology can prevent accidents and enhance the skills of elderly drivers, and was impressed with the realism.  Next came a holography laboratory, which someday will be integrated into driverless vehicles, and other applications.

Finally, Professor Tsuyoshi Tanaka (left) and Assoc. Prof. Atsushi Arakaki, who took over Tadashi's laboratory, joined us for dinner at the same restaurant I was taken to two years ago.  However, this Nokodai Visit #2 came together only two days ago when Tadashi e-mailed me in surprise that I was in town and asked if I could squeeze in a day and night with him, and possibly meet a "friend."  So it turned out to be last night, for a just returned from Matsumoto, and he had dinner scheduled to discuss fund raising and the alumni, something that presidents of universities do.  So he got creative.  In this small restaurant of only four rooms he must have used presidential pressure to secure a second room for Tsuyoshi, Atsushi and I.  On the other hand, this might have been the glassware room and they just stuck in a table and four chairs.  He did join us for an initial drink.

I particularly show this photo because you will note the great four-button sleeve dark sport coat I'm wearing.  I brought nothing resembling academic / business wear, so spent an hour earlier in the day searching for something cheap and presentable.  It turned out to be good enough, so I'll keep it, but the total cost of my stylish jacket was $54 from H&M.  I also had no dress pants, but I figured my $115 jogging bottom would suffice, and my shoes, while athletic, almost looked acceptable.

The food was, of course, terrific, starting with clam and sochu:

Excellent sashimi.  The beef was from Nagasaki, and we couldn't figure out what cut this would be called in the USA:

I should add that the girl above is now a sophomore at the University of Tokyo, and works 10 hours/week.  Nagasaki beef is as good as Miyazaki beef, which is as good as Sendai beef, so I'm coming to a conclusion that there isn't any discernible difference between Japanese wagyu beef from the various regions.  Here is Tsuyoshi with a $130 bottle of sochu.  This establishment is known for wild boar, which we had with assorted vegetables and mushrooms, like shabu-shabu.

Dessert was loquat and cherry:

I took a photo of the girls around us, and like the waitress from the restaurant, the one to the right is a student at Waseda University, who had previously lived in New York and Kansas.  Taking a photo here was actually not such a big deal, for here among them are a potential candidate for the 2018 world cruise.  

Two of them will be in Honolulu next month to have dinner with me at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Waikiki to continue the evaluation process.  Of course, it all depends on Matchmaker Matsunaga, who will still need to make the necessary arrangements.  How am doing from my side?  Well, there is a very small list of interested contenders (need to be single and female, plus pay your half of the cruise cost--could get complicated if there are two of them, but that would make a possible book all that more exciting), plus a few more who I would love to include, but they have not shown any interest, yet.

For breakfast today I went down for my usual restaurant on the first floor, but, being Saturday, the waiting line was 25-people long.  I noticed in the elevator that for a few dollars more I could have breakfast at Victor's on the top floor.  This restaurant at the St. Francis in San Francisco is one of my favorites.  I love to see the fog roll in from my view on the 32nd floor.   At the Westin I never on this trip had any chance to taste my Yoichi 20-year old, so I asked for this bottle at my table.  

What can you expect from a breakfast steak, but this was the worst on this trip.  However, the tranquility (I was the only having breakfast) and instant service made it worth the extra cost.  In the background you can see Tokyo SkyTree, the tallest tower in the world, and second highest structure next to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Rainbow Bridge (which is white during the daytime) is to the right:

They use solar PV electricity stored in batteries to light up the bridge at night:

For lunch I went to the shopping mall across the street and bought items from Mitsukoshi and Burger King to have in my room;

I talked the hotel into allowing me to check-out at 5PM, for my flight doesn't leave until 10ish.  Next, back in Honolulu.

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck near Kumamoto Thursday night was followed by a larger 7.3 tremor earlier this morning.  A total of 15 fatalities have been confirmed.  There is at least some anxiety of something even more significant this weekend.

Wow, Tropical Cyclone Fantala in the Indian Ocean is up to 150 MPH, and seems still headed for Tanzania:


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