Amid the volcanic peaks and hot springs of southern Japan, something fishy is happening: caviar.

And not just any caviar. This roe -- kilogram upon kilogram of it -- is the result of an aquaculture experiment that began with sturgeon imported from the Soviet Union three decades ago. Now, for the first time, the eggs prized as a delicacy around the world are about to be shipped overseas to compete with the Russian and Iranian caviar that dominate the high-end market.

It’s a thought that brings a smile to Fumiho Hamanaka, 71, the proud owner of 5,000 white sturgeon that can take at least eight years to reach maturity at almost 5 feet long. Hamanaka has just driven two hours across a snow-covered valley with two fish that will be slaughtered in Miyazaki prefecture for their eggs, which can fetch as much as 1,000 yen ($8.28) a gram. The larger fish yielded 3.5 kilograms of caviar, or 50 percent more than normal, as well as some fish fillets that will cost more on dinner plates than most beef.

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