Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant

My original.  Ask before using it

Energy is the general term for any source of useable power such as electricity and coal that makes machines work or provides heat.   Power is energy ( especially electricity) that comes from a source of fuel and is used to operate lights, machinery, etc.    

The basics:
1) Renewable energy - Wind power / hydro-electric power / sea power / solar power / wave power and bio fuels.
2) Non-renewable - Coal / oil / nuclear power / fossil fuels.
3) Carbon-based - Coal / oil /fossil fuels / bio fuels.
4) Non-carbon-based - Wind power / energy / hydro-electric / sea power / solar power and nuclear power.

All of these different sources of energy and power are not as efficient as nuclear power, especially with Japan's rising energy needs and costs.   People who live and work near these mammoth reactors benefit from having cheaper rents and electricity costs as well.   Japan will eventually bring back online most of their reactors in the future, and they are safe, especially with new regulatory measures put in place to ensure safety.    The locals up in Niigata are not bothered by the presence of a nuclear power station. 

Niigata is site of the world's first ABWR ( Advanced Boiling Water Reactor) nuclear power plant on the coast of the Sea of Japan, where it gets its cooling water.   It used to be the largest nuclear generating station in the world.    ABWR is a Generation III boiling water reactor which generates electrical power by using steam to power a turbine connected to  a generator.   Steam is then boiled from water using heat generated by fission reactions within the nuclear fuel, therefore making this unit a light water reactor.    Fission reactions within the nuclear fuel is what boils the water to create steam.    ABWR reactors were funded and offered by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Toshiba, the first reactor of its kind, to the world, and are state of the art.   Unfortunately, TEPCO runs and operates Kashiwa Power Station.  

The Kashiwa Plant has been in operation since 1996, but has only produced 30% of its output, so hardly any power has ever actually been produced by this plant.   However, at 90% operational capacity it would be one of the most, if not, the most power nuclear power station in the world.   Full capacity may have been achieved once before the 2007 Chuetsu offshore quake, in which afterwards the plant was shut down for several years and then restarted.   

In order to get a layman's  idea of potentially how powerful this nuclear station is, imagine Godzilla waking up from a thousand year hibernation and then walking through the streets of downtown Tokyo and stepping on a power line, on purpose.  He would get zapped with 50,000 volts or more of electricity, which in turn would cause widespread power outages all over the capitol.  The shock alone would have very little affect on him, and would probably piss him off just a little.   Contrast that with Kashiwa Power Station and imagine him stepping on their power lines!   He would literally explode into a ball of flames just from the over capacity in his tail, lighting him up like a Christmas tree.     Another analogy would be Fukushima Daichi playing with sillyputty made from strontium 8, while at  Kashiwa, they probably produce strontium 8 by the truck loads.   Okay.  A highly unscientific and a poor example, but you get my point.  

The relative safely and calm of living in a community like Kashiwa far outweigh  the fear of a nuclear meltdown.   And since the plant operates at an extremely low capacity, barely producing 30% of its overall capacity makes it even safer.  Most locals here are actually proud of it and always remind tourist to take a look at it.   


The Inaka: Japan's Pristine Countryside

("Rolling hills and rice fields as far as the human eye can see.  Kids frolicking with animals in green pastures.   There's a kid somewhere quietly reflecting with a stalk of rice in his mouth, and then there's the guy looking out the train window, and that would be me with the sake and sweets").

If you like to eat, then it's good to have a healthy appreciation for where the food comes from.  I love where my sake comes from, so naturally I want to be a part of the process of how it gets made; from rice plantation to table.   The rugged back-lay of the land; the yellow patches of golden rice fields licking the heavens like golden tongues in the breeze.   There's a kid somewhere lying on his back in a  briar patch with a stalk of rice in his mouth and he's gazing up into the deep clear blue sky.    His eyes are trailing an extra long plume of white smoke from an airplane's exhaust.    There's another little boy from that same airplane who's got his face and nose pressed up against the window and looking down and wondering how beautiful life would be to be in that same briar patch  while looking back up at himself, almost as if he was astral projecting his body there simultaneously.   He's young, so his mind can act like that.

Japan is roughly about 70% green, in that there's a lot of nature and unspoiled forests and fields.   Japan has the oldest wood culture to date with over 70% of its structures built from wood.   It is truly a marvel in and of itself.   The Japanese have achieved a harmony with its land, its people and its gods like no other culture and country in the world.   The "Yaorozu-no-Kami" ( 8 million gods) on the mainland are a testament to the continuity of traditions passed down from generation to generation.

I am particularly fond of the expression "wabi sabi" or, beauty found in death.   Sort of like a Yukio Mishima(esque) rendition of beauty where we all die at the height of our beauty, only difference is that in "wabi sabi"  there is beauty in the deathly decrepitude of something, the impermanence of something with timeless implications.

So what I get when sitting in  silent repose is a waning beauty that's constantly around us.   I try to capture every single little detail, as if I were counting every minute little strand of my girlfriend's pubic hairs, and then plucking them - one for me, one for her.   I used to worship her like that.

At any rate, it's a good to be back in the countryside, and this time my mission was to harvest sake rice.   I got there by local train ( 普通電車 local train).  Why pass up such a wonderful view by taking the bullet train.   Niigata Prefecture, like all 47 prefectures in Japan, are blessed with an abundance of natural resources - really.   There are over 3000 registered hot spring spas in Japan.

Fish and vegetables and fields of high quality table rice can be found in any prefecture in Japan, even as far south as Okinawa - Yes!  Okinawan rice is called Nanshoka-mai.   Niigata has an extra added blessing of having the perfect conditions for growing world-class rice and vegetables.   First, you have the Mt. Echigo Komagatake ranges in southern Uonuma, and the Sea of Japan all along the Joetsu region including Koshin ' etsu, areas are very famous for cultivating and growing great rice and vegetable, too.

The water also flows clean and fresh from bubbling brooks and underground wells from all over the region.   The local beauties reflect the bounty of their land with their long flowing hair and beautiful skin.   The local beauties even sweat pure natural spring water from their brows.

Now, I am no stranger to hard work.  I was not raised with a silver spoon in my mouth, but you could say, I have had many silver and golden plated chopsticks in my mouth.   I have eaten and have enjoyed the very best this country has offered me, in the humblest way possible.   When I finally arrived on site, I was greeted by a cadre of fellow Westerners.   We all worked together to bring in an amazing harvest.

 For those of you who've never tried rice planting and rice harvesting, I encourage you to try it at least once.   There is nothing like hands on work in the countryside.   No trip to Japan would be complete without doing some sort of manual labor.   I for one love it when it is for the purpose of harvesting my favourite food - Japanese rice.

My first time working with rice stalks was interesting; I didn't realise how delicate they were.   Cutting and tying the stalks was pretty straight forward.   I was able to get the hang of it after several tries.   Rice stalks have to be cut and bound before they are hanged, so they can dry.   The whole day went smoothly and we all learned a bit more about ourselves, and about each other.    We learned what life used to be like before you had rice tractors, which completely changed rice harvesting.   One tractor is the price of three Mercedes Benz!

 I could see how the community bond could be weakened without the need to work and toil together.   When I was down there in the dense rice stalks I made so many new connections  with people - clean your thoughts readers.   Through working together as a team from start of finish we succeeded in a job well done.   We all came and went, and we will all meet again someday.   For me, it was good to get a lay of the land and to feel the soul of Niigata again.


Waning Days of Summer

Sayonara my singer:  You delight us with your many pitches and tones.  You are the splendour of summer.   Without you summer would have no song, you are truly a wonderful creation.

Singer of my summer

Sayonara my night promenade:  The beaches glow at night here in Zushi City.  We love  night walks along the ebb & flow of cool summer tides.   Walking along the shoreline barefoot in the blue lit water.  Need I say more?

Sayonara my elixir of love: Cod-neck bottles with marbles placed in them are used to seal this carbonated drink.  Ramune is carbonated lemonade that's been around for ages and the Japanese love it.  The elixir part is made famous by a cocktail called "Tokyo Mojito" but with a few substitutes added: sake instead of rum, and ramune instead of club soda!

150 ml sake
600 ml ramune (3 bottles)*
60 ml fresh lime juice
15-20 mint leaves
In a pitcher, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice. If you don’t have a muddler, make sure you tear the mint leaves to release their mint flavour. Add the sake and ramune to the pitcher and stir well. Add ice and enjoy!

Sayonara my onsen.  Your summer green is captivating.  Love the delicate balance between stone, wood, and earth.  You are the perfect amphitheather for the mind and soul.  You breath forth an orchestral symphony of cicada sounds that cleanses our auras.

("Hope you tearfully enjoyed your sweaty summer wherever you are  in the world, I enjoyed mine.   I can still taste the stifling heat on my tongue; I can quite literally lick the green essence of it").

I try to pace myself when soaking in hot water.  Not too fast, not too slow, not too long.  Take plenty of breaks.  I don't make much eye contact with folks.   You just need to pace yourself in and out of hot water and relaxing the whole time.   When I finish up I don't towel dry, I air dry my whole body under a tree while lying on a tatami.   The Cicada orchestra was really singing loudly then, and I could really get a sense of summer in its  full splendour.   And in typical fashion, after I have properly hydrated myself with water, I have a Sapporo Super Dry.

And from that point in time, as the first waves of intoxication warm my body, everything comes together for me....And here's why.......

At times I am drawn away, and looking back down at  earth from my imaginary bubble from space, and I can sense the utter futility of my struggle against micro-gravity(life).   As I float there uncontrollably totally naked, yet gently, I can  hear my own breath  respirating on oxygen.  I can even see the finite beauty of my own temporality as the sun's glow radiate from the earth's pole  and warming my iridescent  bubble, I am at peace.

Through the void of space the womb of matter I am embraced.  The time of our joy is limited.  The womb of the Jukujo is also warmly and embracing, and humid.  This too is limited, as time has no forgiveness.   It never forgives the beauty as it slowly  turns to decrepitude.  We are stardust.   As our planet and planetary bodies begin to shift according to the seasons we are enamoured in the loveliness of our own temporality.  Time is limited, so we must embrace it.   I want to make one thing perfectly clear.   Summer is a season and it must be enjoyed immensely, there may not be another summer for YOU.    

Part 2

The Waning Days of Summer Part 2

Around this time last summer I was admiring the smell of pit.   Niigata pit is far better smelling than anything out there.   I'm a real pit master.  Closing on this theme, a few more points have to be made. No summer anywhere in the world is complete without sun, skin, and sandy ass goodness along the Shonan Coast. ( my original without watermark)

The term Shonan boy and Shonan girl is a popular name given to young people who live along the Shonan Coast.    Or, better would be Kanagawa Prefectural beaches and shores.   Surfer types and windsurfers paradise tackle waves and glide across them so easily.    The Land of Kamakura, a showpiece town with a great cultural lineage dating back centuries.   Home of the Shonan Cookie!

If you don't surf, well that's alright.  Taking in the nice views is just as fun and exciting.   There is something for everybody to do and enjoy.   As the final weeks of summer close out, we welcome autumn, especially those of us who prefer the cold.   


Drink Menu: Nagano Nihonshu

Good drinks selection for Nihonshu.

1) Eichi ( Special sake made without added alcohol) by Shinano no uni supine

A little dry taste sake which you can enjoy the taste of "Ginjo."

2) Karakuchi Junmai ( Dry pure rice sake) 

Dry, thick and flavoursome.  A bit gamey.

3) Umakara Honjo 

High quality , tasteful and dry sake which you do not get tired of drinking.

4) Maboroshi no Blue by Suien

Thick and flavoursome  sake with rice notes, but also clear and clean.

5) Ginjo Nigori by Suien

Turbidity sake with sweet and clear taste.

6) Kura Genshu by Suien

Home brewer sake which is carefully aged with low temperature.  Thick taste, yet easy to drink.

Kurand original sake

7) Dosukoi ( sumo) sparkling sake.

8) Sake of waxy rice ( rare sake)


All of these sake are definitely worth trying if you cannot decide where to start.

Sake Brewing Process

Sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice but few people know how it is actually made.  Fermentation is a process where yeast converts sugar into alcohol.   Since rice does not contain any sugar, it cannot be fermented as is.  It has to first be converted into sugar with the help of enzymes found in a particular mold called koji-kin.   The resulting koji is then added to yeast known as kobo and left to ferment.    From this labor intensive process we get sake.

Step 1

Polishing hulled rice, the main ingredient.   As it passes through specialised polisher, the proteins and bran that can produce off flavours in sake are removed.

Step 2

Washing, steeping and steaming.   The polished rice is washed in water to remove the bran and is left to steep in water.   When the grain has absorbed 30% of its weight in water it is steamed.  One batch of steamed rice may be used to make koji, yeast starter, and to feed the moromi mash.

1. Koji 2. Shubo 3. Moromi

Making Koji

Spores of the aspergillus oryzae mold ( koji-kin) are added to the steamed rice, which is then incubated to produce koji.   the koji is added to the yeast starter and the moroni mash to help convert the rice to starch into glucose.

Preparing Shubo

This is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji, and yeast.   It contains large amounts of yeast, which promotes the moromi fermentation process.

Preparing the moroni

Koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the shut and then left to ferment.  [ Sandan Shikomi]. Here ( during the moroni preparation stage), a process unique to Japanese sake brewing takes place.  It is a three-step fermentation process known as sandman shikomi.   On the first day, koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the yeast starter ( this addition is called hatsuzoe).   the mixture is left to stand on the following day to allow the yeast to slowly multiply( this step is called odori).   On the third day, the second batch of koji, steamed rice, and water is added to the mixture( this addition is called nakazoe).   Then finally on the fourth day, the third batch is added to the mixture( this addition is called tomezoe) to complete the three-part process.

[ Multiple parallel fermentation] From this point, the koji will convert the starch in the rice into glucose, which the yeast will then use to create alcohol and carbon dioxide.   The conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol takes place in parallel all in the same tank.   This is known as "multiple parallel fermentation," and is a process that is entirely unique to sake.


Once the moroni is completely fermented, it is passed through a press to separate out the sake lees.   the sake is then filtered, pasteurised, and played in cold storage where it matures before being bottled.


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