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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A TRADITIONAL KYOTO DINNER

Dr. Masaharu Kimoto, an old friend, whose primary focus these days is on Tohoku and reconstruction, arranged for one of his staff, Dr.Yoshiyuki and Hidemi Katayama, to:



 host dinner, accompanied by Professor Takeo and Yayoi Kondo.:


Dr. Katayama, just a few days ago officially received his PhD under the mentorship of Professor Kondo of Nihon University.  My dinners in Kyoto have annually been about the best I've had in Japan.

Tonight, we went to Sasabune and had traditional Kyoto cuisine.  We started with Sapporo beer, went on to Benitome Goma (sesame seed) Shochu (25%), and finished with two kinds of sake.  I was too busy in discussion with the four on everything about Japan and the world, that I neglected to take the usual photos.  Here is just one, our duck dish:


We then took a night tour of blossoming Sakura:


Willow trees were also in the mix:


Particular mahalo to Yayoi and Takeo, for tomorrow begins the first day of the university year, and they Shinkansened in from Tokyo for this evening:


Thanks, of course, also to Dr. Kimoto.

This is Day 21 of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Catastrophe. There is more and more radioactivity leaking into the ocean surrounding Fukushima, mostly Iodine-131.





















The diagram on the left shows that the Oyashio and Kuroshio Currents pick up this radioactive water and meet at one of Japan's most productive fishing grounds.  Every day brings just another piece of bad news.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NARA TO KYOTO

I took a quick and cool walk this morning around Nara, and happened to pass i-lunga (photo above--certainly doesn't look like an Italian restaurant, where I ate last night).  It took at most 20 minutes to get here, and the round trip taxi ride cost about $27.

Where is global warming, anyway?  I don't think I saw even one Sakura at full bloom, although here is one area getting started:



  Nara has pagodas:


Click on 5-story Pagoda to view a clip from You Tube.  Of course, temples:


The one above is Todaiji Temple, which houses a 49 foot daibutsu, meaning, large Buddha.  This is the largest wooden building in the world.

I missed breakfast, so at 10 AM got really hungry.  I noticed deer cookies for sale, and for only a little more than a dollar, so I was tempted to try some.  Minutes later I learned that people bought them to feed the deer, and there were a lot of these creatures:


The young and aged seemed to enjoy their presence.  The problem with animals is that you need to watch where you walk, and I soon had to pack the shoes I was wearing.

I began to stroll back to my hotel, but all the restaurants did not open until 11AM.  But I had a noon departure on the JR, and it was already 10:30.  Finally, I was saved, and ordered a bacon/potato pie, hashed browns and corn with a Coke:


A truly satisfying breakfast.  I've been on the road for a month today, and this was my first McDonald's.  This one never closes.

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HAVE YOU HAD AN ITALIAN-JAPANESE FUSION MEAL?

I asked the staff at the JR Nikko Hotel Nara to recommend the best restaurant in the city.  Initially, it was a traditional Japanese establishment, but the chef just left.  So on a wild experiment, I was sent to i-lunga, an Italian-Nara restaurant.  The chef is Junichiro Horie:


The menu was only in Japanese and Italian, so to be safe, I ordered conservatively.  I started with a sparkling Chardonnay from Umbria (not quite a Prosecco, for this can only be made from Glera grapes) at 11.5%.  I also had a 2007 Lemocchiole Bolgheri Rosso, a Tuscany meritage, a melange of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese (14%) .  Riedel glasses were used.  There were five breads:


I together had a spaghetti ali' aglio, olio e pepperoncino, enhanced with basil leaves and raw onions, with Junichiro's Verdure di stagione e bagna Caoda, a different kind of salad, where you dip the vegetables into a hot (red ceramic below) anchovy-cheese-garlic-olive oil dressing, like a fondue:


Cold and hot. Nice.  The agli olio was perfectly al dente, but, was served a bit cool, not a big deal because it was cold anyway by the time I finished eating.

This is a smallish restaurant with six tables and a visible staff of ten.  I noticed that even here, the first drink is generally beer.  As I was thirsty, with the entre I ordered a glass too.

The main course was a Tagliata di "Yamato-ushi" con sparagis spadellato, with wakame mushrooms, vegetables and a balsamic salad:


The ushi (cattle) was from Yamato, and the dish combination excellent.

All in all, a good example of Italian cuisine using Japanese products, not really a fusion as such.  I was full but not stuffed.  I can highly recommend i-lunga.

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HIROSHIMA


I spent the day in Hiroshima, mostly at their Peace Memorial Park.  At one time this was about the center of the city, which got leveled by Little Boy (Uranium-235--Fat Man was Plutonium-239) on 6August1945, killing half the population, 160,000 (twice that of Nagasaki), mostly civilians, effectively ending World War II, as Japan surrendered on 15August1945.  The Park now adjoins the thriving metropolis of two million.  Note that modern building just behind the Atomic Bomb Dome, which was the only large structure to survive the blast and kept intact for obvious reasons as a stark symbol for peace.
























A statue of Sadako Sasaki stands on top of the Children's Peace Monument.  Click on:

A GREAT DAY IN NAGASAKI

to read about the Story of Sadako.

The Memorial Cenotaph (lists the names of those killed) carries the epitaph:

     Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated.

The Dome can be seen in the background.














I laid Pearl's ashes at the Fountain of Prayer.  Hiroshima is from where her ancestors came, and she was just about to join several of her family to initiate a roots search.


Day 20 of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Catastrophe saw deaths exceed 11,000, with 240,000 remaining in 2,000 shelters.  There is a 20% chance that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake could strike before Sunday.  The Fukushima Daini power plant saw some smoke today, but this apparently was caused by a malfunction in an electrical control board.  However, people are beginning to doubt anything fed to them coming from Tokyo Electric Power Company.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NARA

In the transition from Nagasaki to Hiroshima on Day 19 of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Catastrophe, I was reminded by friends to mention three films:

  "Rhapsody in August" with Richard Gere,

  "Black Rain," no, not the Michael Douglas version, but the Japanese movie directed by Shohei Imamura, and

  "Record of a Living Being," with Toshiro Mifune.

Worth a few clicks.

This blog started out only reporting on Planet Earth and Humanity, revolving around my books:



















Today, the Huffington Post published:


At last check, there were only two comments, and one was mine.  Symptomatic of this disinterest, about four months ago, I wrote:

As renewable energy, climate change and peace are too, too boring, I wonder if I change my blog title from PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY to THE SIN, RELIGION, NATURAL DISASTERS AND CLONING POST, there will be an uptick in readership?

I was kidding, of course, but it is true that people rarely remark about my energy/environment posts, but tend to like my food and travel reports.  Thus, when I roam the globe, I write about those places, especially what I eat.  So, today, let me say a few things about Nara.

But before doing that, let me bring you up to date on Day 19 of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Cataclysm.  Radioactive materials are leaking from the reactors.  From plutonium found in the soil around the Fukushima reactors to Vancouver, BC detecting Iodine-131 in their seaweed and rainwater, the crisis appears to be getting worse.  There always is, of course, that obligatory, "but this is not harmful to humans."  Yet, I'm more and more seeing blog-level speculations suggesting that the truth is not being shared, and Japan could well be in real trouble.  Maybe time for me to go home.  If you owned Tokyo Electric Power Company stocks, you have lost 80% of your value since March 11, a 47-year low, as the drop today was 18% after investors worried that privatization might be necessary.  

But today, at least, I'm in Nara, like Kumamoto and Nagasaki, the name of both the prefecture (state, poulation 1.4 million, with 1200 deer) and city (nearly 400,000).  Ancient Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Their flag to the left and symbol on the right.  Amazingly enough, the annual average rainfall is twice that of Hawaii.  It has three sister cities in Japan, and one is Obama, yes, that Obama, which is now famous.


Last year, the city residents celebrated their 1,300th anniversary when they became the Imperial Capital of the country.  They lost this status in 789 AD.

Nara Women's University is one of only two imperial universities for females (the other is Ochanomizu in Tokyo).  Interesting that the president of Nara is Kenji Kume, which is a male name.

I'll continue this in a couple of days.  Tomorrow, I train to Hiroshima.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

A GREAT DAY IN NAGASAKI

But first, Day 18 that Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.  Apparently, the accident level 6 upgrade mentioned a couple of days ago never happened.  Thus, Fukushima remains at "only" level 5, with four others, including Three Mile Island.  There is one level 6, in Mayak, Soviet Union, in 1957, that has remained mysterious, and, of course, level 7 Chernobyl.  Never heard of Mayak?  Here, Greenpeace measures the radioactivity at Techa River, where the apocalypse occurred.  Stalin had Mayak built specifically to provide materials for Atomic Bombs.

The death toll for the Great Tohoku disaster is now just about up to 11,000.  There was a 6.5 earthquake this morning, which resulted in a tsunami warning.  However, nothing much happened.

This will be a very long blog because I will not say much and show a lot of photos.  At 11 AM I began my Nagasaki-style lunch at Nishikisabo.  I was shown to a secluded room and never saw a customer.  Surprise, surprise, the background music was classical koto.  There were 9 courses, served on Imari porcelain, accompanied by Niigata sake and Asahi Dry:

Nagasaki food is somewhat bland, sort of like Mandarin Chinese, but the food was exceptional, music divine, service impeccable and experience memorable.  This is certainly among my three best Japanese lunches, and definitely better than my Amsterdam feast.  Goodbye to Nishikisabo:


But my day was just beginning, for off I trammed to the the Nagasaki Peace Park, a serene, yet sobering remembrance of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb, which fell on 9August1945.  Here is a model of Fat Man (who is on the left):

Note that one of the biggest Soviet Hydrogen Bomb looked very similar:

Here is an interesting graphic of the energy total from nuclear tests:

That's Las Vegas to the right top, but note how close two tests were to Hawaii.

There are two exhibits, with the Peace Statue at one end:

I laid Pearl's ashes at the other end:

While the peak must be a week away, there were some cherry blossoms:

The tear-jerking story is of Sadako Sasaki, who was a two year old child in Hiroshima when Little Boy was dropped.  A decade later she contracted leukemia and was given a year to live.  Her best friend Chizuko Hamamoto began to origami cranes, for it is said that a crane will grant you a wish if you make 1000.   There was time, but paper was difficult to find. At 644, Sadako passed away.  Her classmates raised funds to build a memorial, where a plaque reads:  "This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  Peace on Earth."  Sadako became a symbol of the impact of nuclear war.  Cranes are everywhere at Nagasaki and Hiroshima:

Listen to 1000 Cranes by the group, Hiroshima.  I'm still wrestling with my schedule to make a stop at Hiroshima.

A particularly poignant monolith shown below:


is the mark of the Hypocenter.  Half the population of 270,000 either died or were injured.

Although discussion was difficult, I asked several staff members if they hated Americans for this Atomic Bomb.  I haven't quite analyzed why, but the only response was no.  They actually like Americans.

Well, a trip to Glover Garden was anticlimactic. But here are a few photos:

The view was fabulous:

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