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A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (October 10, 2014)

post date : 2014.10.10

A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers, posted biweekly.


             Three Japanese scientists have won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the development of blue light-emitting diodes—a breakthrough that led to a “light revolution” in our daily life.


             The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Oct. 7 announced that it would award the prize to Isamu Akasaki, a professor at Meijo University; Hiroshi Amano, a professor at Nagoya University; and Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


              The academy said that red and green light-emitting diodes “have been with us for almost half a century, but blue light was needed to really revolutionize lighting technology. Only the triad of red, green, and blue can produce the white light that illuminated the world for us.”

There have now been 22 Japanese Nobel Prize laureates, including Yoichiro Nambu, a naturalized U.S. citizen who won the prize in physics in 2008.


             All national dailies wrote about it in their editorials on Oct. 8, applauding the achievements of Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura and addressing challenges Japan faces in producing further groundbreaking scientific achievements.


Praises lavished on scientists


             All five national dailies welcomed the scientists’ feats, with The Mainichi Shimbun saying, “The decision to award the three the Nobel Prize in physics is encouraging for Japan, a country that takes pride in artisanship, and it comes as great news.” The paper added that Japan “places high expectations on this technology to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions.”


             The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) referred to the fact that the number of Japanese laureates in physics now stands at 10. “Many of them received the prize in the field of particle physics,” it said.  “This year’s awarding in the field of semiconductors demonstrates how high Japan’s standard in physics is.”


             The Sankei Shimbun said a total of 14 Japanese scientists were awarded the prize just in the last 15 years—seven in physics, six in chemistry and one in medicine or physiology. “[It] shows the latent power Japan has in science and basic research.”


             The Yomiuri Shimbun said, “We are proud that the entire development process…was done by Japanese scientists,” while The Asahi and The Sankei said the scientists were honored “in keeping with Alfred Nobel’s wishes that this prize go to researchers who bring great benefit to mankind.”


Challenges for Japan


            The news has shed light on challenges Japan has to tackle.


              “One point of concern regarding everyday research activities in Japan is a lack of talent and a decline in competitive prowess, problems that are becoming increasingly serious,” The Yomiuri said. “Young researchers have become reluctant to enter technological development fields as it takes time and hard effort to produce tangible results.”


              The newspaper also pointed to a declining number of research papers published by Japanese scientists in journals. In terms of this number, which is seen as a “barometer of the vitality of research activities, Japan ranked second around 2000 but has now dropped to fifth, surpassed by China and other nations.”


             The Asahi, meanwhile, addressed the issue of giving credit to corporate researchers who have made great contributions to their companies, with the case of Nakamura in mind. Nakamura, who developed technology to put blue LEDs into practical use while working for Nichia Corp., sued the company, seeking remuneration befitting his contribution. He ultimately settled out of court for 840 million yen.


             “We worry because amid the growing tendency among companies to seek immediate or short-term results, we are seeing too many cases of corporate researchers unfairly being given little credit for their contributions,” The Asahi said. “Roughly a decade since Nakamura filed his complaint, are private companies today sufficiently rewarding their workers?”


             The Nikkei and The Sankei said Japan should develop a research climate that will nurture creativity. The Mainichi urged Japan to create systems to “proactively support research projects, even if it is unclear whether those projects will produce positive results.”



*English translations of The Yomiuri, The Asahi, and The Mainichi are from The Japan News, The Asia & Japan Watch and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Sankei and The Nikkei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center/Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.

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