OSAKA--On a recent spring day at the Knowledge Capital complex in the Grand Front Osaka redeveloped area, workers could be seen rushing about to complete preparations for the opening of the Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University.
What sounds like a place of scientific research is actually a new restaurant scheduled to have its grand opening on April 26 in the Umekita district, located north of JR Osaka Station.
Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University will specialize in "Kindai" tuna, bluefin tuna that are 100 percent farmed from bluefin roe at Kinki University.
The university succeeded in farming bluefin from farmed fish eggs about 10 years ago. Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University will be the first restaurant in Japan to specialize in serving 100 percent farmed bluefin tuna in Japan.
Kindai tuna may be new to Japanese palates, but the fish are well-known among sushi and sashimi lovers in the United States. In 2007, Tetsuya Sakagami, who operates a trading house in Los Angeles, began to import the university’s bluefin and promoted it to chefs of first-class restaurants in New York. As a result, Kindai tuna has spread to restaurants throughout the United States.
“I wanted to convey (to the American people) that Japan is contributing to the protection of marine resources with its prominent fish farming techniques,” Sakagami said.
The fish have been widely accepted in the United States, where gourmets usually prefer farmed fish to naturally grown ones due to possible contamination by hazardous materials, such as mercury, in fish caught in the wild.
Back home in February, the organizers of the Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University held a Kindai tuna tasting party in Osaka. Students and other maguro (tuna) lovers ate sashimi and menchi-katsu (deep-fried minced meat) and were surprised by the delicious taste of the Kindai tuna.
“It has plenty of fat even in the lean portions,” said one of the participants.
“The taste is rich,” added another.
Some of the participants said the taste of the Kindai tuna was superior to tuna caught in the ocean.
Despite the glowing taste tests, Kinki University, based in Higashi-Osaka city in Osaka Prefecture, is still facing difficulties in popularizing its tuna among Japanese consumers.
One problem is price.
Conventional tuna farming uses bluefin fry caught in their natural environment. But Kindai tuna are raised from fry that are cultivated on the fish farm. As a result, prices of 100 percent farmed tuna are 20 to 30 percent higher than those of the conventional farmed fish.
Another hurdle is the Japanese “sense of value,” where in the case of fish, naturally grown ones are deemed the best.
To overcome the problem, the university has been publicizing the “environmentally friendly aspect” of its farmed bluefin tuna. The decision is based on the university’s success of spreading Kindai tuna in the United States.
The restaurant will be located in the soon-to-open Knowledge Capital, a core facility of the Grand Front Osaka redeveloped area in the Umekita district. Knowledge Capital will be set up to promote exchanges among researchers of companies and universities in hopes of developing advanced technologies and goods.
Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University plans to have tablet computers available to diners at the restaurant that will show how the university cultivates its bluefin.
The university hopes that if customers eat Kindai tuna while thinking about the problems of marine resources, they will come to prefer the tuna.
In developing menus for the restaurant, the university was assisted by the Suntory group, which operates many restaurants.
Japan is the largest consumer of tuna in the world, consuming about 80 percent of the bluefin species caught across the globe.
Catches of bluefin tuna are now under restrictions due to fear of depletion. In 2011, a total of 40,700 tons of bluefin tuna was supplied in Japan. Of that, more than half was caught in the Pacific Ocean.
Starting in 2011, international regulations stipulate that catches of Pacific bluefin tuna will be reduced from the annual average of the period from 2002 to 2004.
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