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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #88: December 10, 2002

Nobel Prize winners give advice

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Nobel Prize winners give advice"
(by Associated Press) CNN


If there was one news welcomed by every Japanese this year, it was the Nobel Prize. This year marks the first time the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has honored more than one Japanese national.

The article here is not necessarily devoted to the two Japanese. It introduces briefly a comment from a number of the laureates who gave commemorative lectures at the University of Stockholm on Sunday, two days before the award ceremony. It does hint, however, that here again, Mr Tanaka from Japan has attracted a significant attention.

The two Nobel Prize winners from Japan, one in physics and the other in chemistry, are in contrast in various ways. While Dr Koshiba, the physics prize winner at 76, and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo was well prepared in various aspects to receive the award, it caught Mr (yes, not Dr) Tanaka by surprise, who is 43 years old, an ordinary employee with an ordinary income and job title at Shimadzu Corporation holding a relatively low management position.

Nevertheless, probably what impressed many people more than Mr Tanaka's age and position was his character, being humble, naive, and honest. In an ad-hoc news conference held immediately following the news of winning the prize, Mr Tanaka said, "If I knew it in advance, I would have worn a business suit. Sorry that I am here with a company working outfit." The comment was received warmly by just about everyone.

In fact, he has been giving quite a number of intriguing comments since. The following day at another press conference, he says, "I couldn't sleep well last night after realizing that I would have to give a speech in English at the award ceremony." Asked what was served at the congratulating luncheon with the Prime Minister a while later, he responds, "The only dish I could remember is broiled fish ... I'm sorry I would have paid more attention if I had known such a question was going to be asked." To the question whether he was looking forward to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm, he replies, "I heard I must dress formally and dance with my wife ... I really wish I could get away not doing that." (Later he would be relieved to find he does not have to dance.)

Some of the comments are implicative, though it is unclear as to whether it was so intended, such as that, "I was often laughed at by saying what seemed obvious to me." or that "As I had constantly been told by others that I was peculiar, I began to think I really was."

After the commemorative speech on Sunday, in which he emphasized the importance of teamwork, which resulted in his achievement, and also expressing his gratitude to, by providing individual names of, his colleagues, Mr Tanaka met the press, he heaved a sigh of relief. "Maybe more than 20 times I practiced for this lecture, just for this lecture," he said. "So do not think I can speak English very well. That is just for the lecture. I do not want to speak English anymore."

Surely this cannot be just an ordinary person.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications