Naoki Kamezaki, head of Suma Aqualife Park, Kobe's municipal aquarium, is known as an expert on sea turtles, a status he acquired by being an academic maverick.

Raised in the coastal cities of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, and Oita, Kamezaki, 57, was attracted to sea turtles when he was a university freshman.

"I saw sea turtle eggs sold at a market for ¥20 each and bought five," Kamezaki said. "I ate two of them and tried to hatch the rest, planting them in flower pots. Of course, they did not hatch."