A Day with Yaetsu

This is a write-up about events from a couple of weeks ago.

But first, some background…

One of my first private students in Japan is a man named Dr. Yaetsu Kurosawa. He’s a very nice man in, I’m guessing, his fifties or sixties. His doctorate is in biology, and he specializes in pigs: their domestication, breeding, history, and what-have-you.

He has gone over to various Southeast Asian countries to research pigs and how they are raised. He has, apparently, had to have armed guards during some of his research expeditions because he has gone to some unstable areas.

He is also a member of a Japanese research team headed by the Emperor’s second son, Dr. Akishino.

Personality-wise, the easiest thing to say is that Dr. Kurosawa is very passionate about his work. He’s very friendly and will chat about most anything, but is most interested in discussing Japanese traditions and animal biology.

Finally, he is the curator of what is, apparently, the world’s only museum dedicated to cattle.

Do you want to guess where this whole thing is going? No? Okay.

Since last October, Dr. Kurosawa has been suggesting that he would like to show Amanda and I his museum and his home.

Finally, a few weeks ago, he invited us to his museum and, afterwards, to the museum’s attached restaurant.

Naturally, we said, “Okay.”

He picked us up at our boss’s house (which is apparently a Japanese way of showing respect to the chain of authority) and took us to his home. On the way there he showed us his rice fields, I believe he said he had four hectares. He does most of the farming himself, though, as we were to learn, his wife helps.

We arrived at his home, which is a fairly traditionally styled Japanese home, and he briefly disappeared calling for his wife. She appeared outside with a dirty apron, muddy boots, and muddy rubber gloves. Upon seeing her husband she said (in Japanese), “I thought you weren’t going to be here until 2:00.” The great thing is that we caught the tone, or think we did, and it’s a tone we’ve probably all heard. That very polite tone that visitors are meant to hear but which has an underlying annoyance as she is caught in a state of unpreparedness.

Anyways, she was very nice, and we tried to chat a bit. She served us matcha (a thick green tea) and some tasty mochi cakes.

Soon enough we were saying goodbye, and we were brought to the Cattle Museum. It was pretty neat, full of interesting exhibits, some very realistic plastic food, and bones.

If at all possible, I highly suggest visiting any museum with its curator. We were allowed to touch things that said “Don’t touch,” including some several thousand year old skulls. Plus, the curator knows the interesting things about exhibits, at least Dr. Kurosawa does. This means that you sometimes get interesting stories behind specific exhibit acquisitions in addition to what each one is about.

So that was fun.

Afterwards, he took us to the museum restaurant and bought us both steaks made from the local beef.

Wow. Just… wow.

The steak was so tender you could cut it with a table-knife. I probably could have used my fork alone. This was true melt in your mouth steak awesomeness. Easily one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.

So yeah, it was a good meal.

After the meal, he took us home. It was a pleasant day.

Since then he has gone to England in the hopes of adding more items to his museum’s collection, but he has to cut the trip shorter than his traveling companions.

Why?

Because he has to come back for a meeting with the Emperor’s son.

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~ by truth9 on July 9, 2007.

4 Responses to “A Day with Yaetsu”

  1. I must say that some of this isn’t entirely surprising since I “read ahead” at the photo-blog some weeks back. But most of it IS surprising.

    The Emperor’s son? Wow. But I’m wondering. What kind of power does the Emperor of Japan have? Much like the Queen of England? And you’re teaching English to a gentleman who works with the Emperor’s son? Wow. I’ll say it again. Wow.

    And YOU say “wow” about the steak. It must have been pretty good for an Albertan to praise it so.

    The thousands of years old skulls are kinda neat too. I know the topic of livestock can be kind of boring, but did Dr. Kurosawa have anything odd or interesting to say on the subject?

  2. And I’m just going to sum up my thoughts by channelling Keanu for a minute here.

    “WHOOOAAAAA!”

  3. The Imperial family in Japan actually has less political power than the British royal family. That said, they Japanese Imperial family is not a running gag like the British royals. The Emperor is, apparently, a living symbol of Japan according to the Japanese constitution (which you can Wiki yourself). Further, the whole family is treated with great respect and there are still aspects of the old “Imperial family as descended from the gods” religiousity about them. Thus, while not political, they remain a vital aspect of Japanese society. Add to that the fact that there are no other royal families in the world that can trace their lineage back as far (safely 1500 years, with a few more thousand arguable) and you’ve got one heck of a symbol.

    Hmm, and now I realize that I didn’t link to Amanda’s photoblog in the post. Oops. http://adnamapanda.spaces.live.com/

    And just to reiterate, Dr. Kurosawa works with the Emperor’s second son, not with the Crown Prince. Still, pretty cool. Actually, when I first found out I was pretty much in wow state too.

    In truth, I had never previously given any real thought to cattle. I had heard (and seen) Texas longhorn, but it was actually quite interesting to see the sheer diversity of cattle on a global scale.

    I don’t recall any particularly fascinating revelations, but it was news that cattle were domesticated in India and Indonesia at around the same time (but separately from) cattle were being domesticated in the so-called “cradle of civilization” in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

  4. Actually, how I first found out that Yaetsu worked with the Emperor’s son was kind of odd and roundabout. One week, early this year, he had contacted my bosses to let them know that he would be busy the following week and wouldn’t be able to come to class. This happens occasionally, so I didn’t worry about it.

    The day after our class was to have happened, I came out of one of my classes to find my boss holding the newspaper, which contained a photo of Yaetsu explaining something to Prince Akishino in the Cattle Museum.

    When I asked him about it, he just played it down, saying that it was a big honor that the Emperor’s son would come to his museum, and all that. It wasn’t until a month or more later that I learned about the research team.

    Oh, and if you’re curious, Prince Akishino’s specialty is the domestication of fowl, mainly chickens, apparently.

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