Japanese researcher still can't believe he won Nobel

Japanese researcher still can't believe he won Nobel
PHOTO: Reuters

The day after hearing the news that he had won the Nobel Prize in Physics, Takaaki Kajita, director of the University of Tokyo's Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, told reporters Wednesday that he could not believe he had really been given the award.

"I keep wondering if it's true. It's a strange feeling," Kajita said at the university's Hongo Campus in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

Dressed in a dark gray suit, Kajita arrived at the university at about 6:40 a.m., ready to appear before TV cameras.

Since receiving the news of his award on Tuesday evening, Kajita had already given a number of interviews before going to bed at a hotel near the university after 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

"I felt overwrought and could not sleep well," Kajita said. He said he woke up at 5:30 a.m.

Kajita's research involves use of the Kamiokande and its successor the Super-Kamiokande, particle detectors constructed underground beneath the old Kamioka Mine in Hida, Gifu Prefecture.

"I was just lucky. I'm very happy I could conduct research as a member of the team working on these experiments," he said.

On Wednesday, his mother, Tomoko, celebrated her 81st birthday. When Kajita called her on Tuesday evening, she expressed happiness at the news.

Remarkable teamwork

Kajita's Nobel Prize win was supported by teamwork from more than 100 joint researchers.

"It was the result of our team aiming at one goal," Kajita said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Leading a team comprising researchers from different nationalities and universities, Kajita steadily observed neutrinos falling from outer space at the Super-Kamiokande.

The Super-Kamiokande sits in the Kamioka Mine, where rocks said to be the hardest in Japan can be found. The detector is about 200 kilometers away from Nagoya, taking about 20 minutes to get there from the nearest town.

Until the Super-Kamiokande was completed in 1995, researchers and students stayed in an apartment room rented nearby. Three people took turns staying there for a week to continue research.

Kajita and other researchers monitored equipment around the clock using a three-shift system. In winter, snow piled up to the knee in just one night. They reportedly often shoveled snow for an hour in the morning.

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