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Saturday, October 21, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 8--Why I came to Japan

Today is the day for the retirement ceremony and celebration of Tadashi Matsunaga from the presidency of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, or Nokodai.  I almost blew it!!!

The university paid my way just to give a 5-minute testimonial.  This was a huge honor, and the other person designated his five minute statement was Professor Tetsuya Osaka, a world famous authority in electrochemistry.  He is the oldest professor at Waseda University because he is the only person in the history of that institution who was authorized to stay on after he attained the age of 70 two years ago.  You might say we three are karaoke buddies.

I've caught the JR trains maybe a hundred times from Tokyo to the Nokodai Koganei campus.  This time, JR was fixing a portion of the Shinjuku Station departure area, so I mistakenly went up some steps, saw a Chuo train there, and there seemed to be a sign that hinted that it was headed for Mitaka Station, which is a couple stops away from Higashi Koganei.  I noticed this train was blue instead of orange, but hopped on anyway, re-thought this haste, but the door closed and I was stuck.  

To my shock, this was an express train to Matsumoto, where I visited a couple of days ago.  This is a three-hour ride between Shinjuku and Matsumoto. Although I left the Tokyo Westin two hours before my appointment in the Matsunaga/Tanaka lab, if the train never stopped, I would be back way after the retirement ceremony, and might have even missed the reception.  The ignominy would have ruined my reputation.

I anguished for a while, but then heard that the train stopped at the Hachioji Station, half an hour away.  I asked the conductor how to get back to Shinjuku so that I could the next time catch the right train.  Of all the luck, the train going that way was to arrive in two minutes.  But more importantly, one of the stations way before getting to Shinjuku was Higashi Koganei.  

Got off after an interminable number of stops, and, to make a much longer story short, it was pouring rain, so instead of making the 10 minute walk to the Nokodai campus, I caught a taxi (for $7) and was only 15 minutes late for my appointment to work out my presentation details for the retirement ceremony.  I could easily have missed the whole thing.  While I felt euphoric, I really don't need this kind of stress.

The session went perfectly.  After a few introductory remarks, Professor Osaka gave his 5-minute talk, well illustrated in Powerpoint.  I too did a PP.  It's much more difficult to prepare a 5-minute show than that of a full hour, which I had recently completed for Mensa.  Essentially I went over a few highlights of the karaoke, cuisine and golf experience Tadashi and I have had over the past quarter century. 



By   Patrick Takahashi
21 OCTOBER 2017

I showed half a dozen slides, then ended with:
A quarter century ago Tadashi Matsunaga served as the First International Professor for the Blue Revolution while on sabbatical at the University of Hawaii.
Today, he is retired from the presidency of Nokodai, and will mostly spend the rest of his life chairing important committees.
Could Matsunaga become the leader for the Blue Revolution?

All of his research life he has focused on the micro aspects of biotechnology.  After serving as dean, then president, he should now have the experience and vision to bring together the entire package at the macro level.  So I'll continue to follow up with him into the future.  All we need to do is find $1.5 billion to build the Pacific International Ocean Station.  This could be his legacy for Planet Earth and Humanity.  (Interestingly enough, several of his colleagues later at the reception came up to me and said they too wanted to join the blue revolution.)

So, anyway, he received a goodbye bouquet after his 45-minute lecture summarizing his life:

He put Professor Osaka and me in a taxi to take us to Keio Plaza Hotel for his retirement reception.  In charge were Tsuyoshi Tanaka (right) who replaced Matsunaga as head of the lab, and Atsushi Arakaki, also a staff lead in the lab.  They both spent some time at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.  The current and past presidents of Nokodai gave their 5-minute statements, Matsunaga provided a short talk, we had a kanpai, and then drinks plus a huge buffet:


There was also an unlimited supply of beer, wine, sake and whiskey.  I was invited to join them on a follow-up party, and who knows what else, where I could well have returned back to my hotel at 2AM.  So, in consideration of the stress I went through for my near disaster, my advanced age and the fact that that I had to leave tomorrow to beat Typhoon Lan, I decided to return to the Tokyo Westin.

One thing I never did during the past eight days in Japan was a room meal, so after getting off at the Ebesu Station close to my hotel, I stopped by and got German beer, Italian minestrone, American Burger King cheeseburger and Japanese chicken curry rice, which I enjoyed while watching Japanese enka:

There is something soul settling about this sort of cuisine combination in the privacy of your own room after a particularly rough day.  Incidentally, the total cost of the above was $15, about 1/30 what I paid for at Robuchon last night (scroll down to the next posting).

Well, Typhoon Lan is at 150 MPH and still heading straight for Tokyo, with landfall expected early Monday morning.

I will depart Narita at 6:25PM Sunday night for Bangkok.  Lan seems to be moving faster and faster towards me.  Hope I get out in time.


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