Professor at Toyama Prefectural University Chosen for Prestigious ERATO Program

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.9 edition (January 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The “Asano Active Enzyme Molecule Project” headed by Professor Yasuhisa Asano of Toyama Prefectural University’s Biotechnology Research Center has been awarded the Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) funding program of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

JST began the ERATO program in 1981 with the goal of creating innovative new technology. Targeted projects are not existing research projects being extended, but research that comes from innovative perspectives. A research director is chosen, and young scientists work under that person for a period of time. The research director is in charge of management, including conceiving and planning the project, selecting and directing the staff scientists, and coordinating the budget. Past ERATO participants include internationally recognized scientists such as Nobel Prize-winner Ryoji Noyori, and Shuji Nakamura, creator of the blue LED.

This year, Dr. Asano was chosen among 1,817 candidates along with two scientists from Tokyo University and two scientists from Kyoto University. This is the first time that a researcher of a Toyama university has been chosen, and it is extremely rare for a university outside of the large metropolitan areas to be chosen.

After gathering researchers from around the world, the project will begin in April and will continue for five years, with funding of up to 1.2 billion yen (approximately 15.6 million USD).

The aim of the “Asano Active Enzyme Molecule Project” is to study the enzyme responses of not only germs but also plants and insects, which is hoped to be a basis for new synthetic substances and health screening methods. In the future, we may see the creation of industrial technology that does not use fossil fuels, or the ability to perform a comprehensive health exam with only a blood sample.

Toyama Prefecture is already historically well-known for the medicine industry, but we hope that this ERATO-chosen scientific research project will give Toyama even more international recognition.

Biotechnology Research Center, Toyama Prefectural University website (English):

ERATO website (English):

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now


Kan-Buri Fishing Season Arrives in Toyama Bay

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.9 edition (January 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Kan-buri (literally “cold season yellowtail”) fishing is synonymous with winter in Toyama Bay. This winter, the season officially started on November 26th, and by December 12th, 11,970 fish had been caught. The blue-green spines, fat silvery-white bellies, and stripes of yellow line the fishing areas. They average about 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) each, and some are over 15 kilograms (33 lbs.).

In order to heighten trust that the fish are the authentic famous kan-buri from Himi City, Toyama, certificates of sale by the Himi Fishermen’s Cooperative are stuck on each fish and shipped in blue boxes with a trademarked graphic. These measures were established beginning this season in order to counter the problem of fish falsely being sold as Himi kan-buri. It has now been established that the label “Himi kan-buri” can only be claimed for buri caught by fixed shore net within Toyama Bay and sold for auction at the fish market in Himi. In addition, even fish caught in Toyama Bay may not be certified if they are too small, ensuring a high quality for fish with the “Himi kan-buri” label.

Buri are known as the “King of Toyama Bay.” The Himi coast has the largest continental shelf in Toyama Bay, and is a good spawning ground for fish. Beyond this, there are deep sea valleys rich in plankton. Fixed shore nets are placed on the slopes, and they catch the buri that come here to feed on smaller fish. The buri are then immediately placed in ice to preserve freshness and flavor, and are speedily taken to the fish market to be sold. You could say that the good taste of “Himi kan-buri” is a result of special skills and techniques as well as the dedication of the people involved in the industry.

The buri of Himi has been famous since long ago in history. Maeda Toshiie (1539 – 1599) of the Kaga Domain used to order for the buri to be salted and sent to Kyoto (then-capital city). In the Edo Period, buri was sent to Shinshu (present-day Nagano) and Owari (present-day Aichi) for New Year’s celebrations on what was known as the “Buri Road.”

In Toyama, there is a custom for a new bride’s parents to gift a whole buri to their son-in-law’s family at the end of the first year of marriage. Half of the fish is then returned, and both families enjoy a single buri and wish for good fortune.

In a country famous for seafood, the fish in Toyama is especially well-regarded. We hope that you will be able to try some soon!

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now