Date of activity: January 29, 2016
A celebratory gala held in honor of Professor Takaaki Kajita's winning of the Nobel Prize in Physics took place on the evening of January 29th, 2016 at the Imperial Hotel Tokyo.
At the beginning of the event, guests watched a video showing the dignified atmosphere of the actual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony that had been conducted in Stockholm in the previous month. Then, Professor Kajita, a red rose affixed to his chest, and his wife Michiko, dressed in an elegant kimono, entered the venue to thunderous applause. Following opening remarks by University of Tokyo President Makoto Gonokami, State Minister Tsutomu Tomioka of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) delivered a congratulatory speech. In his speech, State Minister Tomioka held up two fingers as he expressed his wish that Professor Kajita aim for a second Nobel Prize, an action which put all of the guests in a lighthearted mood.
Next, with the mood of the venue in high spirits, it was time for the highlight of the gala—the kagami-wari, or the traditional breaking of sake casks. Professor Kajita and his wife Michiko were joined by President Gonokami, 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics Recipient Professor Makoto Kobayashi, President Katsuhiko Sato of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Director General Masanori Yamauchi of the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization and other guests as they made their way to the stage. All donning happi coats and acting in response to the shouts from the rest of the guests, Professor Kajita and the others broke open casks of famous sake from Toyama Prefecture.
Professor Akito Arima, a former president of the University of Tokyo and current chancellor of Musashi Academy, then came up to the stage to give a speech. He talked about interesting episodes that he had experienced during his time at the University of Tokyo that were related to Professor Kajita's research. For example, when Professor Arima was the dean of the University’s School of Science, Professor Masatoshi Koshiba, another Nobel laureate from the University, rushed into his office overjoyed that he had successfully observed a neutrino burst from a supernova. Professor Arima also revealed that when serving as the president of the University, he struggled to secure a budget for the Super-Kamiokande project. After sharing those anecdotes, he proposed a long-awaited toast to Professor Kajita.
The toast gave way to pleasant chatting among the guests in a friendly and lively atmosphere, which was followed by celebratory messages from Dr. Yuichiro Anzai, president of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and Mayor Hisanori Inoue of Hida City. After Professor Kajita received a bouquet and congratulatory telegrams, including a message from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was his turn as the guest of honor to deliver his speech. With Mrs. Kajita on the stage watching him from behind, Professor Kajita expressed his sincere gratitude for all the people who have supported his research. The gala then ended as the professor and Mrs. Kajita left the venue with a big round of applause, given by all the guests who once again felt awe and respect for Professor Kajita’s great scientific achievement as well as for the invisible neutrinos themselves.
The gala event was accentuated by displays set out both inside and outside the venue. Panels with posters explaining neutrino research in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand way, which were created by the University’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, were put in the lobby adjacent to the venue. Placed inside the venue were Professor Kajita's Nobel Medal and Certificate, as well as panels with pictures that showed the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and other related events.