Chapter 1-12

The results are super dense and intense vegetables.  Nagata tomatoes sink in the water whereas regular tomatoes float.  They contain extremely high levels of nutrition and sugar (carbs).  And if that’s not enough good news, they are excessively flavorful and rich in taste. 

Floating tomatoUpper: regular tomatoes. Lower: Nagata tomatoes.
Nagata tomatoes sink because they are dense and concentrated.

Just to be clear, Nagata method is not organic.  Organic fertilizer is usually used to amend the soil.  But Nagata farming does not amend the soil much– it is left rocky and arid.  Instead of extensive amendments, Nagata methods provides minimum amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium using liquid fertilizer.

The tables show high nutrient levels of Nagata vegetables.

Comparison of Vitamin C contained in Nagata vegetables and regular vegetables Nagata table1


Comparison of sugar (carbohydrate) contained in regular and Nagata vegetablesNagata table2

Data source:  Terukichi Nagata.  2002.  Oishiisa no Sodatekata.  Japan: Shogakukan

Zero in on our potential



Chapter 1-11: Power of Zero


But we are not Zen monks.  What’s the implication of Zero to us?  Is it applicable to all of us on Earth? First, we ask the plants.

Terukichi Nagata founded the Nagata Farming Method in Japan when he found the power of plants triggered by Zero.  When he was young,  he inherited a mandarin orchard located on hilly, rocky soil.  One day he found that the fruits grown there were actually quite sweet, despite the poor soil conditions.  Mystified, he started investigating what made them unbelievably sweet and delicious.

nagata soilTerukichi Nagata, the founder of Nagata Farming Method on his farm

Tomato soilNagata vegetables are grown on surprisingly arid soil.

Nagata  method leaves the soil rocky and arid.  And if that’s not enough (seemingly) bad news for the plants, he also MINIMIZES the water and nutrients given to them.  The amount is reduced to the level that is “barely enough” to allow the trees to survive and grow fruit.

Desperate to capture any drop of water,  the roots become very long.  They branch out extensively to maximize water/nutrient intake.

It’s not just the roots that are frantically working.  Tomato fruit grows hair on the surface to capture any little moisture in the air. The leaves are shrunk and hanging down to send all the water and nutrients to the fruit.  Every sensory receptor in tomatoes are so heightened and aroused to maximize the outcome. The Nagata method is also known as “fasting farming.”


 Tomatoes grow hair desperate to capture every bit of moisture in the air.


Shrunk leavesLeaves are dry and shrunk in order to send as much water to the fruits.

Images in this page: courtesy of Kensai

Power of zero2



Chapter 1-9


And, by the way, this is not a new experiment at all. People in the Middle Ages devoted themselves to this issue, sincerely and diligently.  Zero is actually the very old black.

Today we can trace the results of their sophisticated experiments in the form of refined art, philosophy and religion.

Old manuscript

Augustus Hoernle, 1887, The usual form of the numeral figures used in the w:Bakhshali manuscript,  “On The Bakhshali manuscript”, page 9, Public domain

While mathematical zero emerged as an essential element to advance science in the modern world, “sunya” continued to inspire various forms of art and philosophy in many Asian countries.  Buddhists especially devoted themselves to the issue of “emptiness” and “void.” This concept is expressed by   in Chinese character, which means “sky”, “emptiness” and “void.”

Buddhism is a religion of  “Zero (). ” 

Buddhism’s core belief is to achieve Nirvana (the imperturbable stillness of the mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished) to free ourselves from all kinds of sufferings.  Sufferings are the product of desire and lust.  If you stop “wanting,” then you no longer have to suffer.  Once you reach Nirvana you almost merge with the vast universe;  you acquire the eternal truth.

One school of Buddhism, Zen, has a distinct characteristic: it denies text as a means to acquire the eternal truth.  Religious text is inherently prone to multiple interpretations. You could lose the critical truth when you are mired into disputes to decide which interpretation is correct. 

Zen believes that the state of Nirvana can only be achieved through physical, mental and cognitive training (most notably by meditation).  All the religious truth has to be inside yourself, not external to your body, like text.

Zen middle ages



Chapter 1-8

Intro to zero top

This is a departure from the conventional perception that  there is (almost) a linear correlation between the level of external stimulus and satisfaction:  external stimulus (brought by products/services etc.) that generate less pain and more pleasure always result in higher satisfaction. 

This perspective changes when arousal is plugged in to the equation.  Arousal is a bell curve.  An assumption can be made that the marginal satisfaction from the change in pain/pleasure level would start diminishing once it hits the plateau of arousal, and starts going toward boredom or stress direction.

Figure pleasure painInteraction of External Stimulus and Arousal

But where does the level of external stimulus meet optimum arousal level, when we are talking about satisfaction from products or services?

This is where “Zero” comes into play.

Make an assumption for now, that the current level of pleasure for humans is too much and is not aligned with their optimal arousal level.  (For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on pleasure, not pain, from this point on.)  

Since the assumption is “too much” pleasure, we can simply start reducing the dosage until we find the right point where it crosses the optimal level of arousal.

If you keep subtracting the amount of pleasure, the pleasure will eventually become zero.  “Zero” is the ultimate form of subtraction.

Zero sets a boundary for this experiment: if we keep reducing pleasure towards zero, what will happen to our body and mind?   Will we only feel stress or anxiety? Or will something else emerge?


Figure zero



Chapter 1-7: Zero = abundance hypothesis

Zerohypothesys top

Although they must be appreciative of the safe environment and reliable food supply, the penguins in a traditional zoo setting may be bored because there is nothing much to do. 

Remember, in the wild the animals are highly trained creatures capable of running,  flying,  swimming, attacking, hiding, investigating…. a wide variety of actions that require sensory, physical and cognitive concentration.

But their potential does not have an outlet in a traditional zoo setting.  

When the penguins were freed during  the “Penguin Walk,” they suddenly became awoken to engage themselves in doing what they are good at.  When they are engaged, they look excited and happy. And it makes visitors excited and happy.

Figure penugin walk

Conceptual State of Penguins during “Penguin Walk”

Hypothesis for Zero = abundance:

The level of satisfaction is not the function of the level of pain and pleasure ONLY.  The level of arousal also plays an important role. 

Figure ZA hypothesis

Interaction of External Stimulus, Satisfaction and Arousal

The level of satisfaction is maximized when external stimulus level (pain/pleasure  dose) is aligned with the optimal arousal level: not too bored, not too stressed. 

Intro to zero

Chapter 1-6 (3)

Once the penguins have regained their autonomy (there is no human intervention during the walk), they can interact with their surroundings (including humans) much more proactively.

They are so fun to watch: The Penguin Walk became Asahiyama’s  most popular event during winter. (and Asahiyama Zoo became one of the most popular zoos in Japan)

Penguins are also very agile in the water. It’s something you don’t imagine by watching them waddle on the ground.  The Asahiyama Zoo’s penguin house is designed so that the visitors can see penguins flying by in the water.

Penguin water Penguin water2Images courtesy of Asahiyama Zoo


Chapter 1-6 (2)

Penguin Walk was created leveraging the King Penguins habit to go hunting to the sea in a group.  See how they walk in a file.

Images courtesy of Asahiyama Zoo

More excitement is added when Gentoo Penguins join the adventure.  Gentoo are super curious, independent and love adventure.  You can see him play and dive in the snow.

Images courtesy of Noriharu Kubo

Penguins botton3

Chapter 1-6

Penguins top

What is your impression of the penguins in the zoo?

They… stay in a group and waddle by a small pool?  They get fed? They…probably… swim? Not so sure?

Then let’s change the question: are they the animals you would definitely check out at a zoo?

penguins zoo

If your answer is no, is it because you think the penguins are boring? And if that’s the case, is it because the penguins are bored?  Are the penguins boring and bored by nature?

Actually, penguins are curious and surprisingly agile in the water.  But they hardly display those characteristics in front of the visitors.  As a result, visitors end up believing that the penguins are boring.

Asahiyama Zoo in Japan knew that the penguins were pretty cool.  So they decided to unleash their natural coolness by literally “unleashing” them.

Instead of confining them in a secluded area 24/7, they started a program called “Penguin walk” in winter.  Freed from the cage and released to the corridors, the penguins get to take a walk for about 30~60 minutes everyday.  Their food is about 500 yards away, but they are allowed to walk at their own will and pace.  Once freed in the environment, they remember their curiosity. It’s instantaneous. 

Penguin asahiyama

Asahiyama Zoo was once a small municipal zoo in a Northern town of Hokkaido, Japan.  It revolutionized the way the animals are exhibited at a zoo by focusing on unleashing each animal’s natural/inherent abilities.  

Penguins botton 2

Chapter 1-3: What is satisfaction?

what is satisfaction top

In order to understand the kind of satisfaction filling Patagonia’s movie “Worn Wear,” revisiting the definition of “satisfaction” is in order.

According to Sigmund Freud, “People want to become happy (satisfied) and to remain so. This endeavor has two sides, a positive and a negative aim: an absence of pain and displeasure, and experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure.”

Satisfaction is a function of two inversely correlated factors: pain and pleasure. We feel more satisfied when pain is reduced and pleasure is gained.   Pain and pleasure can also be called “external stimulus.”

Figure satisfactionConceptual Relationship of Pain, Pleasure and Satisfaction

You would almost assume that satisfaction level continues growing rightward as civilization progresses and society develops:  1) shielding mechanisms to reduce pain, and 2) production systems to increase pleasure.

The more advanced the society is, the more abundant it becomes, and the more satisfaction it can deliver. 


There is always room for technology improvements.  It is imperative that products and services keep adding something more for greater satisfaction. It is the golden recipe to lure capricious and demanding customers.

Let’s test if this assumption is correct – does less pain and more pleasure always increase satisfaction?


Animals in natural state bottom


Chapter 1-2: Full because it’s empty

Full empty top

Empty glass

The inspiration for Zero = abundance first came from Patagonia — especially their short movie, “Worn Wear.”  Patagonia and Zen may not sound connected, but there are something common at a very deep level. If you haven’t watched it, it’s highly recommend.

As the title suggests, it is a compilation of Patagonia users’ stories who continue wearing the same gear until they are literally worn out.  They proudly “boast” about their worn clothes  — weathered, ripped and repaired so many times.  Many items are handed down from one generation to the next.

The peculiar thing is, although the movie is all about worn gear or products that theoretically should have “depreciated” in value – if we were to borrow economic terms – it is far from any tone associated with stinginess, deficiency or sacrifice.  Instead, it is simply filled with a prevailing sense of satisfaction.

Patagonia must have created this movie to raise awareness about the risks of our economic system that heavily relies on over production and over consumption. But I almost forgot about the environmental cause.

This satisfaction overflow simply struck me.  I was in awe.

How come they can feel so content by wearing the same old rugged clothes instead of replacing them with new ones?  How come they don’t look shabby but look so beautiful?

I had to question myself if I could wear a smile as beautiful as theirs if I were to pose in front of a camera with such worn clothes.  Well probably I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have any “worn wears” to begin with.  I don’t have any clothes that I trusted so much that I’ve gone through so many life-defining moments like the folks in the movie.  

They reminded me of an empty glass.

A glass so full because it’s empty.

And this is not rhetoric.

I literally felt the fullness because of its emptiness.

That led me to the journey to find out what’s behind the emptiness, or the “Zero” that we will be exploring in this project.

what is satisfaction bottom