Date of activity: December 14, 2015
Returning from Sweden where they attended the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and other special events during the Nobel Week, Professor Kajita and his wife Michiko arrived at Haneda Airport in Japan in the early evening of Monday, December 14th. They then took part in a press conference at the airport moderated by Professor Shinji Suzuki, director of the University of Tokyo's Public Relations Office.
Professor Kajita first looked back at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, saying that it was so stunning and marvelous that it reaffirmed for him the significance of the Nobel Prize. He added that it was also a great pleasure to celebrate with his colleagues from the Super-Kamiokande facility. He then answered one question after another asked by members of the media, who had fully packed the venue.
Asked which events held during the Nobel Week left the strongest impression on them, Professor Kajita said for him it was the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, adding that he felt motivated during the rest of the Nobel Week events because he was excitedly anticipating the Ceremony. Mrs. Kajita said that for her, every day of the Nobel Week was special, and that especially, being escorted by King Carl XVI Gustaf felt like a dream.
When questioned about the advice that Mrs. Kajita had given her husband at the press conference upon their departure for Sweden regarding how he should behave during the Ceremony, Professor Kajita commented with a smile, "In general, I acted how my wife told me to." In response, Mrs. Kajita confessed frankly, "During the Ceremony, I did not pay attention to how he was acting at all because I was too nervous in front of the King." Mrs. Kajita added that her husband had been very busy attending the variety of events held during the Nobel Week, saying that particularly, "until the Nobel Lecture was over, he seemed to be too focused on everything going on around him to listen to my advice." Her comment suggests that Professor Kajita had completely immersed himself in preparations for his Nobel Lecture.
When asked how the Nobel Prize would play a role in his future research, Professor Kajita replied that he feels that winning the Nobel Prize and conducting his research are separate from each other. Professor Kajita was then asked what message he wanted to convey in his forthcoming lectures and other appearances. He answered by inviting young people to pursue careers in research, saying "The world of investigating fundamental truths and searching for natural phenomena is wonderful once you truly immerse yourself in it. I want young people to know about this exciting way of life."
Other questions posed by members of the media included whether or not Professor and Mrs. Kajita experienced jet lag, whether or not they had visited tourist attractions while in Sweden, the professor's thoughts about his home prefecture of Saitama and his alma mater Saitama University, the couple's plans for the New Year's holidays, what they want to eat when they return to their home in Toyama Prefecture, and whether or not they plan to give out Nobel Medal chocolates as souvenirs. Towards the end of the press conference, Professor Kajita showed his Nobel Medal to the media. He remarked that he "definitely feels the weight of the Medal," both literally and figuratively, as he was engulfed in a sea of camera flashes. Asked to pose for photographs holding the Medal together, Professor and Mrs. Kajita at first firmly refused; however, encouraged by the persistent requests from the media, they eventually acquiesced.
The final question the professor was asked at the press conference was a difficult one: what one kanji character would you use to describe this past year for you? "Sorry, I haven't really thought about it. I was asked the same question before, and I couldn't answer it then, either. Just one character…? I don't think there is one," he responded sincerely. He then added, "If I could use two characters, I would go with 'honor' (koei; 光栄)," as the press conference came to a close. Although the Nobel Week is over, Professor Kajita has a full schedule of lectures and other events ahead of him at the end of this year and the beginning of the next. It seems that the afterglow of the professor's honorable achievement of winning the Nobel Prize will remain around him for a while longer.
*【Nobel Week】 is a special series of reports given during the Nobel Week.
*You can read articles about the other Nobel Week activites here: http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/general/nobel_index.html