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Oral-History:Takanori Okoshi

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About Takanori Okoshi

Takanori Okoshi is a communications engineer known for his work on the soft landing collector tube and his development of wide view projection holography. He received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tokyo and 1955 and received both his masters' and doctoral degrees from the University of Tokyo. Okoshi became a professor at the University of Tokyo and worked on projects in optoelectronics and holography, planar circuits, and optical fiber communication. After retiring from the University of Tokyo in 1993, Okoshi became manager of the Japanese government's National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR).

The interview begins with discussion of Okoshi's family and his wide-ranging academic interests. Okoshi discusses his undergraduate and graduate experiences at the University of Tokyo and describes his Ph.D. work on electron guns. He discusses Mickey Uenohara's invitation to Bell Labs and his experiences at Bell in 1963 and 1964. He describes the various projects he worked on as a professor at the University of Tokyo, beginning with his development of the soft landing collector tube. He describes his work in optoelectronics, discussing his theoretical work on three-dimensional imaging, his invention of wide view projection holography, and his influential book on holography. He then describes his work on planar circuits and on optical fiber communications. Okoshi then discusses his position at the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR), the general Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) research laboratory structure, and discusses how his work at the University of Tokyo made him a candidate for his position at NAIR. The interview concludes with Okoshi's discussion of his various professional activities including his IEEE activities.


About the Interview

TAKANORI OKOSHI: An Interview Conducted by William Aspray, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, May 23, 1994

Interview #206 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Takanori Okoshi, an oral history conducted in 1994 by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA


Interview

Interview: Takanori Okoshi
Interviewer: William Aspray
Date: 23rd May 1994
Place: National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research, AIST, MITI, Tsukuba

[Note: Dr. Yuzo Takahashi of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology makes occasional comments, in English to Aspray and in Japanese to Okoshi.]

Family Background and Childhood

Aspray:

Could you begin by telling me when and where you were born, and what your parents did for a living?

Okoshi:

I was born September the 16th, 1932. So I am now 61 years old. My father was also an engineer. Actually, he was a professor at the University of Tokyo and a major in mechanical engineering. Speaking of the family history, my grandfather was also an engineer, an electrical power engineer. Doctor Takahashi and I both graduated from the University of Tokyo, Department of Electrical Engineering. My grandfather graduated from the same department 57 years before me, in 1898.

Aspray:

He must have been one of the earliest classes.

Okoshi:

No. I'm not quite sure, but I think electrical engineering was already twenty years old.

Aspray:

I see.

Okoshi:

Yes, something like that. Going back farther, my great grandfather was a medium-scale landowner in Tochigi Prefecture, some 100 kilometers north of Japan. When he was an adult, I think in his twenties or thirties, the so-called Meiji Revolution took place. He was a landowner. He was supervising the farmers and collecting some money for their renting land. But he came to believe that henceforth it was the time of education. He decided to give as high an education as possible to his three sons. My grandfather was the eldest one. The second son became a famous architect, also in engineering. The third became a medical doctor. My grandfather then entered the University of Tokyo and became a power engineer. He first joined a company named Oki. Oki Electrical Company still exists, now specializing in, I think, computers and electrical machines. When the Russo-Japanese war took place in 1904, he was moved. He made the second lieutenant grade in the Japanese army and did not go to Manchuria, but was sent to Formosa. That was a funny story because the Baltic Sea fleet, the Russian fleet, cruised from the Indian Ocean to Japan Sea by a small channel called the Formosa Channel. There was a small island where the Japanese navy had a searchlight. At that time electricity was a new invention, and because he was a mechanical engineer, an engineering officer, he was sent there. I don't know what he did there, but on his way back to Tokyo he dropped by at Taipei City, Formosa. He heard about a new plan to construct what was at that time the largest hydraulic power plant east of Suez. It's an expression that was often used at that time to mean in Asia. 110,000 kilowatts.

Yes. As soon as he came back to Japan, he resigned from the Oki Company and joined the Formosa Taiwan Power Company and worked for the new plant for some twenty-five years until he constructed this [which is shown in a photograph]. This picture I took some six years ago when I visited Taiwan. This is only his piece. He died as a chief engineer there, a few years before I was born. He was a power engineer, and my father a mechanical engineer. There was a tradition in the family that the father and son should not do the same thing. So after long debate with my father, and my internal struggle, I finally decided to become an electrical engineer, not in power, but rather in electronics.

Aspray:

Did you have brothers and sisters?

Okoshi:

Yes, I have two brothers and one sister. I was the third son. My elder brother became a mechanical engineer. He violated the family rule! My second brother is now a professor of economics at a private university in Tokyo. My sister married a pharmaceutical engineer. And my brother-in-law has retired already.

Aspray:

Could you tell me about your childhood? Did you have interests in science and engineering? Hobbies?

Okoshi:

Yes, to some extent. In the primary school, under the influence of teachers, the pupils looked up to the scientific people and the humanities people. I became a scientific one. I was fond of the so-called science classes, of making radio sets, and doing some experiments, very primitive experiments of course in chemistry labs was very expensive. Bringing up the plants, and things like that.

Aspray:

Did you build small motors?

Okoshi:

Yes, I also made some motors. Remember, I had two brothers. Not me only, but my brothers and I made four tube radio sets when I was in primary school.

Aspray:

Were you a good student?

Okoshi:

Yes, I think so. I was the teachers' pet. I was not so arrogant, not so resistant.

Takahashi:

Obedient.

Okoshi:

Obedient, very obedient, so I was liked by my teachers. But in junior high I suddenly became a hundred and eighty degrees different. Yes, it's very common in Japan, I think. In general, the junior high age is so called "Sturm und Drang."

Aspray:

Did you have an idea when you were a child what you wanted to do for your career?

Okoshi:

Yes, I think so. Roughly speaking, yes. Because my father was a university professor, I decided to become some sort of expert, a teacher in some science area. But in primary school, even in the earlier half of senior high, I changed my mind a little bit. If I could, I wanted to become a — well, please don't laugh at me — to become a philosopher. [Laughter] Because at that time, influenced by my friends, I read many books on philosophy, very romantic works. Schopenhauer.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

I read Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant was very different, and also Kierkegaard I read more than once. It seemed to me more interesting than science or engineering. But soon after I changed my mind again. I came to believe that philosophy had no future at all, because there was no — [Speaks Japanese].

Takahashi:

Positive.

Okoshi:

Yes. It was less positive. It was speculative, endless discussion and dispute. It would bring forth nothing at all, I thought. Again I changed my mind towards the science, and so at the end of my senior high-school age I wanted to become a theoretical physicist rather than an engineer. But finally I changed my mind again to become an engineer because I was not so confident in my ability to do a good job in theoretical physics. It seemed to me a better compromise to become an engineer. If I found my talent was in that area, I could switch a little bit to the physics side. But actually it did not happen.

Student Years at University of Tokyo

Aspray:

I see. How did you choose to go to the University of Tokyo?

Okoshi:

It was closest to my home. [Laughter] Actually, I am not joking; only three kilometers. At that time my father and my grandfather and the two brothers of my grandfather, and the two brothers of my father, and my brother, all got into the University of Tokyo, so I thought naturally this was for me to attend that university.

Aspray:

The bachelors program that you entered was the one in electrical engineering?

Okoshi:

Yes.

Aspray:

What was the character of the course of study? What was the emphasis?

Okoshi:

At that time there were only two courses. One was power, and the other was electronics. At that time it was called the strong stream and the weak stream, and a translation of the German, Starkstrom. Actually the latter meant electronics and communications. I took the second course. The actual final segmentation took place when we decided the subject of the graduation thesis work. I entered the professor Okamura laboratory, where the subject was mainly the field of electron tubes, which were a major part of electronics.

Aspray:

What were the facilities like at the University of Tokyo in the 1950s?

Okoshi:

I entered the laboratory in 1954. The facilities were very poor. However, the facilities in the companies were also poor, so the difference was not so large as at the present time.

Aspray:

I see here from your curriculum vitae that you graduated in 1955 with your bachelor's degree. Did I hear you correctly, that you started in 1954?

Okoshi:

Yes, 1954. I entered the laboratory for the graduation thesis work, which lasted for ten months.

Aspray:

I see. But you had entered the university earlier than 1954?

Okoshi:

Yes. I entered the university in 1951.

Aspray:

I see. Can you tell me some stories about your undergraduate years? In fact, about your whole time at the University of Tokyo?

Okoshi:

Well, yes. In that system and in the system at that time, or even now, the student engineers in Tokyo University usually stay two years in the so-called liberal arts college, and eighteen months after the entrance we have to decide which course we take. What I remember very well was that I could not decide whether to go to the electrical engineering department, the department of architecture, or the department of physics. I had three choices. I remember I could not decide until the very last moment, and I prepared three applications. Finally, I informed the counter of the bureau that my first choice would be the electrical engineering department.

Still I was wondering whether I had made a good decision. I was to board a train that went to Shibuya station, and I thought, "If I go back now, I could change it." [Laughter] As the next train on the route line came, I thought, "If I board here when the doors shut, I will have no time." So I remember very, very well that moment, and I finally decided to leap into the car, and the doors shut. That way I entered the department of electrical engineering. [Laughter] Physics seemed to me more beautiful, and architecture might be more fascinating because the pieces would remain after the lifetime of the architects. I still believe in that way now, and I envy the architects, my friends’ plans.

Aspray:

In your training in electrical engineering were you drawn to the theoretical side, or the mathematical side, or the hands-on experimental side? What was your emphasis?

Okoshi:

Theoretical and a little bit experimental, I think. When I was in senior high I was interested in mathematics, but soon afterwards I was convinced that I don't have much talent in mathematics.

Aspray:

Did you take on other activities while you were a college student? Were you interested in extra-curricular activities?

Okoshi:

Yes, I read many books. One other thing was music. I started to compose when I was in senior high, but at that time it was only several years after World War II, and the number of pianos in Tokyo was very small. Many were abandoned and destroyed. It was very expensive to purchase one. There was only one piano in the liberal arts college in the University of Tokyo, and there was a long list of applications to use it. So I couldn't do much of my music. What I did was purchase as many scores as possible and invest in the papers. That was my only extra-course activities I can think of.

Aspray:

Had you been trained in music when you were young?

Okoshi:

I had instruction from a famous cellist. When I first entered the graduate school, he was the number one cello player of the NHK symphony orchestra. He originally wanted to be a pianist. He helped me to play piano.

Aspray:

But had you learned to play at all before, as a child?

Okoshi:

No.

Aspray:

Not at all. I see, so this was something you took up in college.

Okoshi:

Yes, my sister played. In my house, because of World War II, my study was here, and with another room, and just behind the wooden door there was a piano. Every time my sister started exercise on the piano, I thought, "Too noisy." I disliked music at that time. However it is quite common for Japanese boys, at the age of twelve or thirteen, to suddenly become musical. It’s exactly what happened to me.

Aspray:

How was it you decided to stay on after your bachelor's degree for a master's and Ph.D.?

Okoshi:

I originally intended to become [inaudible] and an engineering designer for one of these companies.

Aspray:

So it was just assumed from the very beginning that you would continue?

Okoshi:

Yes.

Aspray:

Was it very competitive to be accepted into the graduate program?

Okoshi:

Yes. At that time a little bit, but not so serious. Frankly speaking, at that time the condition to get into the graduate school was achievement in the top one third or the top half.

Undergraduate and Graduate Research

Aspray:

Were there particular professors at the university who shaped your career, who had an influence?

Okoshi:

Yes. Professor Okamura, who was my supervising professor when I wrote my bachelor's thesis, as well as the M.S. and Ph.D. theses. He is a tube specialist. He is now of the President of the Tokyo Denki University.

Aspray:

What was your thesis work on?

Okoshi:

My thesis work was entitled "The Generation of Millimeter Waves by Harmonic Generators." That is, the generation of millimeter waves by frequency doubled or tripled. At that time the millimeter wave tubes were not obtainable. They were very expensive at that time. So the best way to do experiments with millimeter waves was to get to the signal source by multiplication of frequency.

Aspray:

What was the outcome of your research?

Okoshi:

I continued similar work even in the master's course. It was two years, in graduate school. I think the achievement was fairly good, but it was published only in Japanese. The formula gave these theoretical efficiencies. It was said afterwards that it was maybe one to three years earlier than similar achievements in the United States. However, it was not translated, but published in Japanese, in the journal of IECE (Institute of Electrical Communications Engineers of Japan). So I was a little bit proud of that.

Aspray:

What about your Ph.D. research?

Okoshi:

I worked on electron guns.

Aspray:

How did you come to that topic?

Okoshi:

Well, I disliked the achievement. At that time, most of my work was theoretical. But the number of papers was good enough. I could write enough papers, and this continued to my work at Bell Laboratories, because I worked on electron guns.

Aspray:

Are there other things you want to tell me about your formal education?

Okoshi:

No.

Lectureship and Electron Gun Research

Aspray:

I note from your vitae that you continued to stay on at the University of Tokyo, first as a lecturer, then as an associate professor in the department. Is that something that commonly happened in Japanese universities?

Okoshi:

I was appointed as a lecturer immediately after I got my Ph.D. It's exceptional, I think, today. Now they usually spend at least two or three years as an assistant in the laboratories.

Aspray:

What were your responsibilities?

Okoshi:

Giving lectures, laboratory experiments, and supervising the mathematics. So the first one or two years, usually, we didn't give ordinary lectures, but only from time to time when the professors were absent. We usually did instruction of the experiments or the mathematic practice, things like that.

Aspray:

I see. Were you continuing during this time to work on the electron gun work?

Okoshi:

Yes. By and by I enlarged my knowledge of the microwave and millimeter wave measurements area.

Aspray:

Can you elaborate on that? Can you tell me what problems interested you, how you got attracted to this?

Okoshi:

In the eyes of my contemporaries, it was very primitive, I think. I encapsulated several things outside of tube work. The typical one was how to theorize the microwave impedance display equipment, which now the Hewlett-Packard Company sells. It's now commercially available, but at that time it was not. There were several possibilities in the principle of circuit construction. The device worked, and I actually theorized one version. That's what I remember now. I did miscellaneous jobs too, partly to maintain research activities of Professor Okamura's laboratory. There were many people, students, and the so-called research students from outside companies, and they had to carry on their research activities. They were not well trained, so even though at that time I was younger than those people, I had to supervise them to some extent. Thus my area was broadened automatically to cover the activities of those people. I actually did a variety of things, like the other staff in Japanese universities.

Aspray:

Was your research work starting to become known in Japan, and outside of Japan?

Okoshi:

Well, I can't say outside of Japan. Actually, I myself translated one or two of my papers, and these were read by my professor at international conferences. But frankly, I can't believe that they gave any shock to the specialists at that time in advanced countries such as Germany, France, the U.K., and the United States. My name became a little better known domestically, I think — only domestically, because the number of researchers was much smaller, fortunately, at that time. Now it would be impossible.

Bell Laboratories

Aspray:

I understand that you took leave to go to Bell Labs for about a year in 1963. How did that come about?

Okoshi:

Here is the story. Have you met Mickey Uenohara?

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

He was then a supervisor at Bell Laboratories. Okamura introduced me to him. I knew Mickey Uenohara, personally to some extent, and he was glad to invite me as a guest there.

Aspray:

I see.

Okoshi:

At that time I thought I was invited because of my merit, but frankly speaking, now I can't believe it was that way. It was his friendship.

Aspray:

I see.

Okoshi:

Yes, because my achievements so far at that time were not so great. But somehow Professor Okamura and Mickey Uenohara agreed to send me to Bell Labs, and I worked there for eighteen months.

Aspray:

But in young people it's as much promise as it is achievement that more senior people are looking at. What did you work on at Bell Labs?

Okoshi:

Well, at that time the work on lasers was just emerging. Before I joined, I exchanged some letters with Mickey Uenohara, and there were two possibilities. One was to move to lasers; the other was to stay in a more conventional area, the tubes’ guns. At that time they had some very special assignment on the tubes. I think there was some immediate need. It was not my choice, but after discussion about the situation at Bell Laboratories, finally he assigned me to the tubes. And if I went to that field, I might have been changed a little bit. I joined Bell Laboratories in the middle of April of 1963, and everything was wonderful at that time. Very different from Japan.

Aspray:

In what ways?

Okoshi:

Well, the facilities first, salary second. The social living standards were very much different at that time.

Aspray:

Whom did you work with?

Okoshi:

In Bell Laboratories at that time there was a very special system. Each MTS (Member of the Technical Staff) is assigned a laboratory half the size of this room. One MTS and one TA (technical aids), were accommodated in the room.

Aspray:

That's a pretty big space.

Okoshi:

Yes. Workers on a theoretical area get one-third the space, I think. Anyway, we had the desks for the deskwork as well as equipment. These were the units of research activities; four, five, or six such rooms were supervised by the supervisor. Four, five, or at most six groups — such units were called groups — were "departmented." Four departments formed the laboratory, and at that time there were about 100 laboratories. My supervisor, Doctor James W. Gewartowski, was a Polish-American. He had a bachelor's degree from Illinois, a master’s from MIT, and a Ph.D. from Stanford, I think. He was a very nice guy, six feet and three inches high.

Aspray:

Very tall.

Okoshi:

And very generous. I still remember him. I worked on electron guns for eighteen months.

Aspray:

Did you find any technical differences in the approaches, or in the level of research, or other things, between Japan and America?

Okoshi:

Yes. I should say it was so much different in every respect. The difference was so big that nothing could be immediately applicable to things in Tokyo. But still I am very, very thankful for my experience at Bell Laboratories. Incidentally I was enamored with Bell Laboratories. I came to know how the people managed such a huge laboratory. At that time the number of employees was about fifteen thousand, which was at that time the world's largest. Now it is more than twenty thousand, and still the largest, maybe. The number of people in the EE department in the University of Tokyo was maybe one hundred and fifty, something like that. So the size was one-tenth. It was not applicable, but it was very good experience for me to learn how the management was going on because it was useful for me afterwards, i.e. in the institute. Even so, I was much impressed, and was almost shocked by difference in the research facility and financial power. Anyway, I decided to some day in the future, make the EE department of the University of Tokyo as famous as Bell Laboratories.

Aspray:

What was the attitude in the University of Tokyo about your going over to work at Bell Labs for a time?

Okoshi:

There were pros and cons. Some professors liked to send out their colleagues to foreign institutions because that way those young people would become more international, and at the same time the department itself could open the window to the international circuit. Some professors did not like it. They thought that the youngsters were too Americanized. [Laughter]; too arrogant towards the senior, old professors. But that latter voice was a little bit hidden. Not explicitly expressed. But, generally speaking, we were encouraged to go outside.

Aspray:

Did you consider staying in the United States?

Okoshi:

Ah yes, to some extent I actually did. But I thought it was my duty to go back because I first had the permission only for twelve months. I had to petition to elongate it by six months. Here is a funny story. My wife became expectant, and the scheduled delivery date was exactly the same date as my returning date. So I wrote a letter to the department head, "What else should I do? It's impossible to deliver on the aeroplane!"

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

But, of course I was joking. One way was to send my wife back to Japan.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

However, in the department, the professors' meeting was generous enough to extend for six months, and fortunately the laboratories agreed. It was originally the laboratories proposal to further work on guns, so I was fortunate there. But it was the maximum I thought that I could stay. Even though I though a little bit about staying in the United States longer, I had to resign, and return to the University of Tokyo, or make very much confusion.

Electron Tube Efficiency Research

Aspray:

When you went back to the University of Tokyo, how did your career develop?

Okoshi:

When I came back, I did not want to continue my work on electron guns. I had been convinced that there was a big difference in the ability of constructing of the experimental apparatus, so I tried to shift my way a little bit. What I conceived when I was in Bell Laboratories was how to make an electron tube with one hundred percent efficiency. That is, the supplied power, DC power, is converted in principle one hundred percent to microwaves. I remember that in a lunch meeting (farewell meeting) held for me in a small Italian restaurant in Murray Hill, I declared, "after I go back to Japan I will invent a new tube with one hundred percent efficiency." I started the work immediately after I went back to Japan. But of course, the invention couldn't be done. I worked on that new idea for a tube for, I should say, about eight years, or even ten years, and I've got some materials. [Noise of papers being shuffled] This is a tube that is called the "soft landing collector tube." My idea was, in order to construct an electron tube having one hundred percent efficiency, what we have to do is to make the heat generation of the tube zero. If no heat is generated, all the power might become microwaves.

Aspray:

Right.

Okoshi:

In the electron tube called the traveling wave tube, the exit of the electron beam is here, and the electrons have various, distributed velocity distributions. First we had to classify the electrons, decelerate them, and capture all the electrons at positions where the velocity was almost zero. In that way we should be able to realize a cold collector called the soft landing collector. The soft landing collector was made by myself. After the invention of the tube, I cooperated with people at NEC, the Litton Electric Company, and prepared this, constructed this, having succeeded in improving the original tube efficiency from eighteen to forty-six percent. Not one hundred. But forty-six was a very impressive value at that time. Now it's not so impressive, now it's fifties, possibly.

I first brought this data to the 1970 IEDM, International Electron Devices Meeting, held in Washington DC. There I presented a paper, and to my astonishment, almost simultaneously several related ideas came out, from Nippon Industries, General Electric, Hughes, and the University of Tokyo. I thought that mine was the most complete one, the best. As you see here, this has a special structure that has no axial symmetry. Unfortunately, at that time there were two major schemes: the axial symmetric one, and the non-symmetric one. The trend afterwards went to the axial symmetrical types, so this was finally abandoned. I disclosed this structure two, or three years prior to that, so I think my proposal had some influence on the community in the United States in the late 1960s. I am satisfied with that primary stage excitement. Finally we retired from this area in 1972, I think, so it lasted only eight years.

Aspray:

What was the practical significance of this development? Was it put to use by a certain community of people?

Okoshi:

Yes. The people in NEC picked up this idea. But this specific type of the soft landing collector was not put into use at all. Technological information is now flowing internationally, trans-nationally. At least this initiated the idea that the actual soft landing collection of electrons in the tube could be realized by some structure. I think showing such a possibility is...

Aspray:

Important for the international community.

Okoshi:

To some extent, yes. Now, NEC is manufacturing many such tubes, which are being on board the satellites now.

Optoelectronics Research

Aspray:

I see. You said you stopped doing work in this area after eight years. What happened then?

Okoshi:

My concern was headed more and more to optoelectronics at that time. May I talk about that?

Aspray:

Please.

Okoshi:

When I was in Bell Laboratories, as I told you before, the laser work already started. It was in 1960 when Javan invented the ruby laser, then in 1961 Sherman invented his new laser. When I joined Bell Laboratories in 1963 I saw many helium-neon lasers in the main entrance showing this latest achievement. The number of people working in optoelectronics was increasing at that time. What I remember was one researcher, a Greek-American called Doctor Zacharias in my group. While I was in Bell Laboratories he was forced to switch from microwaves to opto-electronics.

Aspray:

This was Gerald Zacharias?

Okoshi:

Do you know him?

Aspray:

Yes, from history of radar work. He was interested in the field.

Okoshi:

Do you know him personally?

Aspray:

I've met him, but I don't really know him.

Okoshi:

Is he now fifty-nine years old, or something?

Aspray:

That sounds right.

Okoshi:

Yes, the same man.

Okoshi:

Anyway, what he studied was the calibration of lenses, how to calibrate lenses, or how to establish the standards of lenses for the entire Bell Laboratories. He told me that such research could become important to make the entire Bell Laboratories more optical. It was a very early age in the era of optoelectronics in the United States. Of course, the laser work existed. Do you know P. K. Tien? He is a Chinese-American who led a group of optoelectronics and built it up to a very powerful group. The preliminary movement already existed in the United States, but there was no special conference, symposia, or workshops at that time. On the other hand, when I came back to Japan in 1964, the Japanese communications engineers were still sticking to millimeter-wave communications. I received a letter from Mickey Uenohara a few months after I came back to Japan, saying that the Bell Labs finally decided to abandon millimeter waves and bet with the future of optical communications. Such information put in my mind some motivation towards optoelectronics, I think. Another fact was that at that time research in holography had started already in Bell Laboratories. The holography was invented by Gabor in 1948, and the Leith and Upatnieks invented new ones in 1962.

I joined Bell Laboratories in 1963, and by 1964 one of these, Doctor P. S. Pennington, an Englishman, was the first in Bell Laboratories to start holography work. I met him in the canteen shop or the Automat restaurant. We became good friends. He told me, "I'll show you some experimental secrets. Top secrets of the laboratories, so please don't tell anyone that I told you." He took me to his laboratory, and I saw this research on holography. I wondered why, and I remember I asked him, "Why do you work on such a funny thing? I can't see the relation between holography and communications." He said, "There might be the possibility of using these in memories. Huge capacity memories." So with the holography, the information communications, and the laser work, I thought of the possibilities of optoelectronics. It was 1967, three years after I came back to Japan, when I decided to enter the optoelectronics field. I was still working on tubes. That was in the summer vacation of 1967. My father-in-law, a physicist, came back from the United States, and he gave me a three-dimensional postcard. Nobody would be surprised by this now, but at that time it was astonishing for me.

Combining that with my old knowledge about holography, I thought that there might be some possibility in the future of three-dimensioned image techniques. It seemed to me that was the easiest gateway into optoelectronics, rather than communications, because of economic reasons. To get into optical communications you actually might need a lot of funds, but the display techniques, I thought, might be easier to enter. So, from 1967 or 1968, I began to do some theoretical work on three-dimensional imaging techniques. By the early 1970s the activities in my laboratories were almost fifty percent optoelectronics, and fifty percent tubes and microwaves. This is the fruit of my research in that area. This was published in 1976, only eight years after I started the work.

Aspray:

So that it's on tape, this is Three Dimensional Imaging Techniques, Academic Press.

Okoshi:

Yes. This is the first work of mine in the area of optics or optoelectronics. To save time, I would like to talk about this work first. I started this in 1968 and almost ended in 1980, so it lasted only twelve or thirteen years. Here is one of the final pages. We find on the copy of the cover of IEEE Proceedings, in May 1980. This was my invention; wide view projection holography. In this area I wrote an invited paper, and every time I write an invited paper, I retire from that area. At that time I became too busy with communications work. So I had no power to spare to the display problems.

Wide Projection Holography

Aspray:

Do you want to explain wide view projection holography?

Okoshi:

Hmm, well, it's very long. We started with the optimum design theory of the lenticular techniques. Do you know the lenticular techniques? The ordinary, so-called, three-dimensional stereoscopic card is based upon the principle of the lenticular sheet. That is a sheet consisting of tiny lenses, lens sheet. We studied the design theory of the lenses and then moved to the general information theory of three-dimensional display imaging techniques. Then we tried to realize the densest method of accommodating three-dimensional image information. That is to accommodate the smallest size of the recording plate. The completion was this. That is wide view zone projection holography. In this case fairly large image information is accommodated in such a small space, typically a one-centimeter or five-centimeter area. Because we were university people, after we could theoretically and partially experimentally verify that this was best solution, I suddenly lost interest.

Aspray:

You had solved the problem you wanted to solve.

Okoshi:

Yes. Ten years afterwards, in the 1990s, this area became a newly emerging field. There are many, many researchers in Japan, also in Europe and the United States, and in particular Doctor Stephen A. Benton in Media Laboratory at MIT. There are many people who know my name through this book of mine, which was the first one. Many people believe that I have already died [Laughter] because this is a classic book now.

Aspray:

I see.

Okoshi:

Difficult to purchase.

Aspray:

The interest in the 1990s in this subject — is this again a theoretical interest, or does it have practical use?

Okoshi:

No, the basic theories have been explored already, so now people are more and more looking for the practical solutions. Ten or fifteen years ago many people, including myself, believed that the so-called binocular system would not have a future because it gives us constraint in the position of the eyes. The more high-level, high-quality techniques like holography or its versions might have the better future. It's funny that it's always changing this way; and it seems to me many engineers are now looking at the future in binocular systems, because of course it's much cheaper. Actually one of the binocular images we're given is the so-called, for instance high definition television screen. The mental effect is really splendid. Of course, you don't have the freedom in positions.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

If we have a very comfortable sofa, we put the headrest this way and give stereo sound. That way we can fix the head of the spectators with some comfort. That way the binocular system is now reviving a bit. This is mainstream technology now.

Planar Circuit Research

Aspray:

So you wrote this paper and then promptly changed research topics. What was your next area of research?

Okoshi:

This sheet of paper was prepared one year ago when I retired from University of Tokyo, and you see here, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, so we are now at the end of the sheet. After optical theory making we almost simultaneously started work on planar circuits. When I'm bored I don't need to study something, but I usually have two or three subjects at hand. I typically had ten or fifteen staff and students in my laboratories, so I used to have a few groups. The second subject was planar circuit work, which lasted again only about twelve years. I'm sorry, I don't stick to one subject continuously. But the idea of the planar circuit — I think this is a new term for me.

Aspray:

Just so it's on the tape again, this is Planar Circuits for Microwaves and Light Waves, and it's a Springer-Verlag book.

Okoshi:

1985. I still had some nostalgia with the microwaves. The planar circuits meant in some international conferences I somehow was convinced of an important category in circuitry that had not been explored at that time. Of course, I am thinking that you have some knowledge of this circuitry. Lumped constant circuit, it's an L or inductance capacitance resistances, the components. Lumped constant circuit is based upon the principle that the dimension at this particular wavelength is much smaller. Could you please note the fourth category, the wavelength circuit, a typical example of which is cavity resonator. The cavity resonator, or in the bathroom when you sing a song, it's an embellishing box. In certain cavity resonators the size is comparable to the wavelength. Could you please similarly refer to the semi-slang, that is optical free-space resonator that is often used in Fabry-Perot inteferometer. In this the length or the width of the resonator is much longer than the wavelength. In between there are two, three, five and six categories. And second rank is very famous in distributed constant circuit. There's so many. It is often used in VHF circuitry or UHF circuitry like couplers. [Inaudible] This length is one quarter of lambda wavelength, but it's much thinner.

At that time I was convinced that in some millimeter wave circuits the width of the circuit becomes comparable to the wavelength. I was convinced that the analysis or synthesis of such cannot be done precisely with the concept of the wave distributed constant circuit, and this should be treated as the planar, two-dimensional electromagnetic waves. So what I did was to propose a new category, called a planar circuit, and the proposed theory and methods of analyzing and synthesizing. When I say "synthesize" I mean to realize the pattern which gives us the characteristics desirable for the given circuit. This analysis and synthesis constitutes the testing of the theory of theoretical planar circuits. After ten years of the work with my colleagues, my fellow graduate students, and my friends in the United States and Canada, and some in Germany, worked together to construct this theory and the method of analyzing and synthesizing these by the use of computers. It took some ten years.

Aspray:

You worked on this from some time in 1968 until 1985, the time of the monograph?

Okoshi:

Actually I worked for twelve years, and I took five years in writing this book. I wrote a book in Japanese and then the English one. This was something like an episode for me, in my career, and in 1985 we finally stopped microwaves, in that way. Almost in parallel, from 1973, we started our major work in optical fibers. This was published in 1982.

Aspray:

This book is titled Optical Fibers. It's an Academic Press book.

Okoshi:

This book is not so popular now, but ten years ago it was used as a graduate school textbook. What I did in this series was a synthesis of the profile.

Aspray:

Could you please explain again what you did in this area?

Okoshi:

We started with the measurement problems because at that time there was no good way of measuring what we called "profile." Profiles are the refractive index distribution inside the fiber. So we devised several new methods, all of which are described here. At the same time we tried to find out the really optimum profile to optimize the performance of the fibers. Now people use single-mode fibers. But at that time our major concern was the multi-mode fibers. In each, typically a hundred modes propagate. Those transmission modes have different group velocities. At the receiving end the originally short pulse is broadened because of difference in the velocities in different modes. Our target was to make all of the velocities of different modes almost identical.

We were lucky that at that time in the planar circuits work we developed a computer program to give the optimized circuit pattern. A very similar technique could be applied to the problem of optimizing the profile. After some endeavor we fortunately succeeded in this. Anyway, the synthesis is done, made with the so-called trial-and-error method. That is the repetition of the evaluation and the correction, redesigning and evaluation. We started from this one, our preliminary profile, and after seventy-three trials this was the result. The change was very small in each step, but finally we reached this profile, which gives almost two and a half orders of magnitude, the smaller, so-called multiple-mode dispersion.

Aspray:

This is the Optical Fibers, page 177.

Okoshi:

It's always the case that history has irony. The procedure to connect the signal fiber needs 0.5-micron accuracy, and ten years ago it was mainly believed that it would not be generally possible to do that. Except for the main trunk line, where the high-level engineers could take care of the connection. The subscriber network would not be possible. But because of the advancement in mechanical engineering, it became possible. Single-mode fibers can transmit much more information than the multi-mode fiber. This sort of work is now somewhat historical and is not of much use now. Five years afterwards, coherent optical fiber communication started it, and this I still am continuing. I left the University of Tokyo last year and can't continue this now here. Shall I talk about this?

Coherent Optical Fiber Communication

Aspray:

Will you, please?

Okoshi:

Again, we had some motivation, as with this one. It’s a long story. Throughout the 1970s I gave a lecture to junior students, third years grade, in the university department, which was entitled "The Fundamentals of Electromagnetic Waves." The first day, I used to give a talk about the division of frequencies, or wavelengths. You know, the range of frequency, low frequency, medium frequency, high frequency, very ultra high frequency, very high frequency, extremely high frequency, and so forth.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

Then it goes up to the optical, far infrared, infrared then visible light. We mainly use the frequencies in radio waves until up to the millimeter waves, or sub-millimeter waves. However, when we get into the optical area or infrared, we suddenly switch to wavelengths as a matter of custom, right?

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

So I tried to explain to the students why such a change takes place. It's not easy to explain. That is, in radio waves we often use the frequency conversion, so the frequency is much more convenient a concept than the wavelength. Of course, wavelength is sometimes important, because of height of antenna.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

Length of antenna is dependent on that. However, if we must choose one, most people chose the frequency rather than the wavelength. On the other hand, in the optical wavelength region, wavelengths probably are more important. The interference, the filters, the gratings, all such optical devices, are dependent on the wavelength, and it's very scarce to do something like the frequency conversion, so the frequency spectrum has nothing to do with this technology. That explanation is exactly what I gave to the students until sometime in the middle 1970s. I was convinced that before World War II, however, many radio receivers had wavelength scales, rather than frequency. When I was in junior high, or senior high, just after World War II, most radio sets had principally frequency scales, but also wavelength scales. Do you remember that?

Aspray:

No, I didn't know that.

Okoshi:

For instance, thirty-two meters, eighty meters.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

Somehow I noticed that change took place when coherent radio communication became standard after World War II. Coherence is a very wide concept, and — but the most basic technique is heterodyne reception. The heterodyne technique was invented by Armstrong sometime around 1920, I think. The heterodyne type of coherent radio wave receivers became commercially available in the early 1930s or the late 1920s. When I was a little boy in Tokyo, our family had one heterodyne receiver, which was expensive at that time. I don't remember whether it had the frequency scale or wavelength scale. After World War II, the heterodyne receiver suddenly became quite common among Japanese families. A few years afterwards a sudden change from the wavelength scale to the frequency scale took place. So I wondered if at some time in the future, the wavelengths now used in the optical regions might be switched to the frequency. But if so, I thought, it will be some time when the optical communications become the coherent communications. This was my very peculiar motivation behind my starting the work on coherent optical communications.

The second and stronger motivation behind my starting this work was that it contained a lot of very good technical tasks. Good for Ph.D. theses. Good for Master's theses and for training graduate students. Actually the coherent optical communications have brought forth five Ph.D. students. Before it is realized it produced titles. And almost ten, I think, Masters' degrees. It was my second motivation, and a strong motivation. Not many people were interested in that, because it was very difficult at that time. However, after some theoretical studies carried out with my younger colleagues, we became confident that this technique would offer many advantages if we could make a breakthrough.

One of the many breakthroughs was the stabilization of the frequency. This is a very primitive frequency stabilization scheme that was constructed in 1979, fifteen years ago. This is a peltier controller (a device for temperature control), and here is a heat bath, which can transmit heat very quickly. Here is a water pipe. Now in only one, two, or three years it became much smaller. This was the first version that was very primitive and too large. Anyway, we found that the frequency could be stabilized down to one megahertz fluctuations. Firstly, we had ten megahertz, and in the second stage by using a specially designed double loop, this stabilizing technique, we could stabilize to one megahertz. This could be compared to several hundred megahertz in free-running natural state. So we came to believe that this was promising for doing experiments.

Luckily enough, there were many pioneering papers in this area, using this sort of technique. Measuring the big error rate is the measure of such communication systems. There are many technical tasks such as how to stabilize the polarization. In ordinary optical communications polarization has nothing to do with the transmission because the signal is transmitted just as intensity. However, when we make some mixing process, the polarization must be stabilized. If the polarization fluctuates, we have to prepare two receivers for the vertical polarization and the horizontal polarization and combine them. This is supposedly a diversity technique. There are a variety of such techniques, all of which we investigated. At one time in the middle of the 1980s, almost ten students were working on this special area. To advocate the usefulness of the theory, this is the book I wrote. This time we wrote the English one first, and then translated it into Japanese. This English one appeared in 1988 I think.

Aspray:

This is with Kikuchi and is entitled Coherent Optical Fiber Communications. KTK/Kluwer is the publisher.

Okoshi:

Yes. I wrote the first paper in 1979, I think. January or February. In 1981 I was an invited speaker at a large international conference in San Francisco, where I read an invited paper on this subject. The first row was occupied by the major researchers from the Bell Laboratories and British Telecomm Laboratories, CNET in France, and the Heinrich Hertz Institute of Germany. All of them were thinking of that, and had actually started already. It was only a one-year difference. This area became a real emerging area in the following few years, and in 1985, 1986, and 1987 many parallel sessions were made in other international conferences. However, this is a very expensive technique, and after the beginning of the 1990s because of the advent of optical fiber amplifiers, the people concerned moved to amplifiers, and our meeting summit decayed. We hope that some time in the next century this will come to be the dominant technique again. Some people say, "No, it's not important," or, "not necessary." Of course I can't tell, but in this case what I can say is surely that the system of techniques, the cause of coherent optical communications, has been established now. Now the problem is the economy of the systems. After the economic comparison, this now is obtainable as a standard technique. More than five hundred papers have appeared, I think, worldwide, in the various laboratories.

Aspray:

Before you go on, can I ask a question?

Okoshi:

Yes, please.

Aspray:

Could you tell me about Kikuchi?

Okoshi:

He was my associate professor. When we first started research on coherent communications it was just before the completion of his Ph.D. He wrote his thesis in Professor Tada's laboratory. He was my colleague, and he was supposed to move to my laboratory. My first paper was written before he came. And then he was my first associate professor. It means that I was expected to enlarge my laboratory with two staff members. Until that time I was the only staff. So I tried to make this the major subject of my newly expanded laboratory. We started to work together in April 1979, and he did a very fine job. He’s nineteen years younger than I, and he’s an associate professor now of the department of EE, Tokyo University.

Science University of Tokyo and NAIR

Okoshi:

When I retired from the University of Tokyo in 1993, I was mainly working on the optical fiber communications, and also on some photon counting work, but it's not so important, I think. Last year I retired from the University of Tokyo and joined the newly established research institute here, which the Japanese government called the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research. At the same time, I was appointed a part-time professor at Science University of Tokyo. Where I am now, I am permitted to attend there only Saturdays. That's my tragedy. So there I have now ten students.

Aspray:

Ten students?

Okoshi:

Yes, one assistant and I are supervising. There are four masters' course graduate students and six undergraduate students, working for the thesis work. Graduation thesis work still remains in Japan. Personally, I think it is a very good system because that way, through that work, the youngsters become convinced for the first time in their job, for engineering. There my main concern is the communication skills. However, at the same time I am now working with the kinetics of plants, or how plants react, or the informatics of plants. There are many funny stories about that. Plants have a pulsation. What you are doing first is measuring pulsation phenomena, or the electrostatic potential between leaves, between leaves and the root, how it changes, and when some external excitation is given, such as a sound or light, how it reacts to that.

Aspray:

Do you want to tell me about your work at this laboratory?

Okoshi:

Nothing. [Laughter] I am just a manager here. Should I talk about this, because it was not recorded?

Aspray:

That's right. If you would, please, I would appreciate that.

Okoshi:

As I told you, there are three subjects here. One is atom technology. I can give you afterwards a pamphlet. Then cluster science, or chemistry, and finally bionic design. For short we can say physics and chemistry and biology; nothing to do with electronics. I am just a manager, and I have very little knowledge about these things. Of course I have tried to study hard, within my ability to become acquainted in these areas, but I don't think I have been successful. Somebody has told me that nobody can really be acquainted with an area unless he or she has written at least one paper there.

Aspray:

I see.

Okoshi:

I agree quite well, yes.

Aspray:

You do?

Okoshi:

I think so, yes. I have never written any paper in physics, nor in chemistry, nor in biology. So my understanding is always quite superficial. But some people said, ironically, that this is the fairest way I could be. I can have no prejudice, for I don't love one sector. I can equally see all three sectors. It is the only one good point for me.

Aspray:

How does this laboratory compare to the other laboratories?

Okoshi:

Among MIT?

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

Would you like to have the twenty minutes video?

Aspray:

Yes, that would be quite nice, after we get done.

Okoshi:

Okay, so at the end I can show you a video, which is quite a new one. We saw it this morning for the first time.

Aspray:

I see. Could you explain the rationale why this laboratory was set up, and how it compares to the other laboratories?

Okoshi:

There are a number of government-sponsored laboratories. One example is ETL, Electrotechnical Laboratory, which was founded almost maybe a hundred and ten years ago. It was after the Meiji revolution, and the major mission of the old laboratory was to instruct the private sector. Lead the private sectors, by importing the latest knowledge and technology to come from outside. However, these things have been changing by and by, and just after World War II the private sectors grew much stronger. Naturally, the main purpose of the laboratories has been changing. It has been changing continuously, automatically. However, there was another discussion throughout the 1970s and the 1980s in particular that we should more positively restructure the research laboratories. There were many discussions in connection with the main mission of the MITI/AIST laboratories to the universities. Some people believed that real basic research is a mission of the universities and not a mission of the AIST part of MITI, which is called Agency for Industrial Science and Technology. MITI has eight laboratories now. At the time of the late 1980s, nine research laboratories existed in the AIST/MITI, and here you find the names of such laboratories. I'll give you a copy of this afterwards. You'll find that some of these have old-fashioned names. Fermentation Research Institute, research in polymers and textiles. It's a sort of declining industry now in Japan. Industrial Products Research Institute. It's for applications oriented one. After long discussions, which lasted about three years, it was finally decided in early 1992 to abolish these four laboratories.

Aspray:

The Chemical, the Fermentation Research, the Polymer and Textiles, and the Industrial Products?

Okoshi:

Yes, and to form two laboratories. That is the National Institute of Materials and Chemical Research, and the National Institute of Bio-Science and Human Technology. That way we have now seven laboratories. It was also thought that we need another — a fairly loose laboratory, which covers all the areas, and which should have a more flexible character to form the research groups in a temporary way, and then break them after six years, or seven years, or ten years. So it was named the National Institute of Advanced Interdisciplinary Research, NAIR. Here is another funny story. It was almost decided to call it N-I-A-I-R, but somebody said that it's too long, so let's drop the second I, and NAIR became the official name. Soon afterwards we found that NAIR is a famous cosmetic.

Aspray:

Yes, it's for removing hair off your legs.

Okoshi:

Some American friend of somebody pointed it out. He jokingly said, [inaudible]. But at that time it was too late to change, so we have the “No Hair.”

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

When we make a list of the laboratories, the new ones are listed last, but this NAIR is in a somewhat special position and listed at the top of the list.

Aspray:

If your specialty is not any of the three areas of research of this laboratory, why were you selected to be the manager?

Ctr. for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research

Okoshi:

I don't know actually. [Laughter] Yes. If there is some background, I think it is the fact that I was the first founding director of a new research institute in the University of Tokyo, which was founded more than seven years ago. This is the Research Center for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research. This was another new venture of the University of Tokyo. Should I talk about that?

Aspray:

Yes, please.

Okoshi:

In the middle 1980s, we had discussions not only in the University of Tokyo, but also in all the national universities, that we needed some reformation or restructuring because everything was choking. We felt very much choked at the university. What we did was to establish an entirely new style of laboratory. We had these four mottos, that had the flexibility in the appointment of faculty members as well as in the research areas. I gave a talk on the NAIR and the RCAST at Princeton University two or three months ago, so I should have something here. We described four mottos that were promotion of the more flexible research structure, promotion of international co-operation, promotion of openness to the outside world, including industry, and interdisciplinary activities, research activities. When I was a young associate professor, the University of Tokyo was a little bit smaller, but mentally much smaller in a sense that when I ate lunch at the faculty members' club, I often chatted with the other members or the professors of the medical school, or law school, or something like that. Somehow the situation had been changing for twenty or thirty years, and I felt that by the middle 1980s it was not possible. Actually, of course, it should be possible, but nobody did that at that time. When the engineers eat they are only with the engineering faculty members, and so forth.

Aspray:

Yes.

Okoshi:

There must be some social effect. When an organization becomes too large, the intermix and intercourse are sadly vacant. A similar situation took place not only between the faculty members but also between the departments and even between the chairs. We felt that we needed more promotion of interdisciplinary activities. The University of Tokyo was also very domestic. It lacked the international atmosphere. The U.K. and France have many foreign professors. But in the year of 1982, if I remember rightly, there were only two foreigners among the three hundred academics at the University of Tokyo, so we thought we should be more open to the international community. Thirdly, we had very bad relations with industry, partly because of the strong student opposition over the years after the rights of the student community.

Aspray:

Over the late 1960s?

Okoshi:

Over the late 1960s and early 1970s. That lasted for some time. And even from the newspapers. Japanese mass communications were fairly left-wing minded and are maybe to some extent still are. They started opposing the university-industry cooperation. The common understanding was that university-industry cooperation was at best a necessary evil — a necessary evil for the promotion of research. Not good for the other national universities. Another problem was flexibility in assignments of the appointments of professors. That is, there were very few cases of professors moved from my university to another, or between university and the industry, or public sectors. We thought we should make it more flexible. Increase the fluidity, you could say. We set up four mottos which was just opposite of the situation at that time. This was the acting principle of the new research institute, which was named RCAST, the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology. I don't know actually why, but I was appointed the founding director in 1986, and I worked for the chief of the preparation committee for about fourteen months. This was inaugurated in May 1987. What we did first was to set up the endowed chairs. We set up the first four chairs: one NEC chair, NTT chair, and the new Nippon Steel Company chair, and the CSK. CSK is the biggest software firm in Japan. By using the fund and these chairs, we decided to invite foreign professors. It was very successful and this might be helpful for you to see the background.

Aspray:

So the people who hold these chairs rotate?

Okoshi:

Yes.

Aspray:

After a period of time?

Okoshi:

So far, the longest person to stay here was professor Henry Marcatili, Doctor Henry Marcatili, from the research laboratory of Bell, of whom I have been an intimate friend for many, many years. He was the first university professor of endowed chairs in national universities of Japan. It's funny; there was strong opposition from the so-called progressive parties in Japan, mainly the communist party and the student unions. When I had the inauguration memorial party in the middle July in 1987, I was in the office of the director, and the ceremony was just beginning. Ten left-wing people came, and I was concealed — it was closed. They told me not to go out, not to attend, unless I promised to apologize afterwards for setting up the four chairs because it was evil. [Laughter] "Okay," I said. Afterwards, they said, I may say something in the afternoon. So five minutes before the start of the ceremony I was liberated. That was the atmosphere, only seven years ago.

When I retired from the University of Tokyo one year ago, we had a farewell party and one man came up and said, "Well, I was the person who had joined that group which cornered you in the office." I was really shocked, and I was afraid he was going to protest me again. He said, "I was very sorry, I'm very sorry now." So the atmosphere has been changed entirely. There's no opposition now. The opposition lasted only one or two years, I think. A few years afterwards we had nine chairs, and in all the national universities in Japan the total number is now fifty-four, or something like that. I think it's comparable to one school at MIT. At least it was a trigger to a change the situation. That way we tried to solve the problem of making the organization more international, and promoting cooperation with industry at the same time. Before that, the notorious fact was that all research funds from Japanese industry to United States universities and laboratories were about twice as large as the flow from Japanese industries to Japanese universities. Much money went to MIT, Harvard, and Princeton. But now it has been changed.

Also we tried to make many open courses, and the life-long graduate schools program. We have made many reformations in the University of Tokyo. At least we triggered such activities, and maybe the biggest change is that we professors can stay here only up to ten years. Then we must go somewhere else. In many cases they go back to the home or main campus, or to their old host research laboratories, because the University of Tokyo has as many as ten faculties and eleven or twelve research institutions. So it's a large pool of talent, and we pick up the best people from these sectors as well as outside people whose positions are guaranteed through the faculty meetings. That is, for instance, we invited one famous professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and his position was endorsed by the medical school of the University of Tokyo. He went this way. We tell these people that after their time of ten years we will take care of his position. But actually this doesn't make much sense, because you're a dean or you retire at that time. However, such able professors are very much confident of themselves, and they feel actually, "Well, I can go anywhere."

Aspray:

So they don't have to worry about job security.

Okoshi:

However, it was the only way to realize the flexible positions. In an ocean of the lifelong employment system of Japan, we are just a small island. To realize such a limited-term system, we need such a special system. It's not needed in America. I spent the last six years of my life in the University of Tokyo in these ways: first as a founding director. In the University of Tokyo, all the university managers have only a two-year term, so then for four years I was employed as a professor and worked on the optical communications work. It might be something to do with my experience that I was picked up as the founding director in a national research institute.

Professional Activities and Awards

Aspray:

Could you please tell me about some of your professional activities? Different societies that you have been an active volunteer and held high-level positions, and so on.

Okoshi:

Domestically I have been the president of two institutions. One is the television society, the Institute of Television Engineers, which I worked at firstly as editor-in-chief of the journal and afterwards as president, some years ago. The second one is the IEICE (The Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers. former IECE) Japan. IEICE Japan corresponds to about sixty percent of IEEE. And IEEJ (The Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan) has twenty percent, and television society and information processing society. These four correspond to the IEEE. So the biggest portion — I should say fifty percent, maybe, is called IEICE Japan. I had been the president of this institution until nine days ago, after the annual meeting. Many of the officers change, and now the new president is the vice-president of NTT. There is an unwritten rule that in many actual cases research and business people...

Aspray:

Alternate?

Okoshi:

Not exactly alternate, but to some extent. Domestically, another of my commitments is the Engineering Academy of Japan. Like the American — you have the...

Aspray:

National Academy of Engineering?

Okoshi:

Yes, EAJ corresponds to the National Academy of Engineering, and I am the vice-president now. It's not written here because I was appointed very recently. The term is every three years. Internationally, I have been working for IEEE to some extent as an associate editor for the Transactions on Microwaves of MTT, the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society. Afterwards, I was chairman of the Tokyo Chapter of MTT group. I am one of the directors of the Tokyo section, in charge nominating candidates for fellows. Yeah, these are my major commitments with the IEEE I think. Other international organizations? My largest one, the most important, is URSI, the International Union of Radio Science. URSI was originally Union Radio Scientifique Internationale. I am now still vice president, and I'm now in the second term. Two years from now I may be retired, unless I am elected the president, but I don't think so. I am almost ending my time now. Then there are honorable positions and foreign member of the Belgian Royal Academy, Royal Academy of Belgium.

Aspray:

October 1991.

Okoshi:

This is just an honorary position, and I have nothing to do with this. You see, my only duty is to give one lecture in some future years. I am now preparing that, and maybe next year I will have the chance to go to Brussels.

Aspray:

Can you tell me about some of these prizes? What is the Fujiwara Prize?

Okoshi:

The Fujiwara Prize is one of the major private-sector prizes. Every year, two people are awarded from the science and engineering, including the medical science, agricultural science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering. Among the number of numerous prizes or awards given by private organizations it is very highly valued, because many of the awardees have received the Japan Academy prize afterwards.

Aspray:

That was the one I was going to ask you about next.

Okoshi:

Yes. The Japan Academy prize is awarded to, typically, eight or nine, or sometimes the joint endowment to two or three people simultaneously is permitted. Typically ten people are awarded every year. By tradition, one awardee from engineering every year. So the chance for an electronic engineer is once in three or four years, because other fields are also competing.

Aspray:

I understand that the Japan Academy is the senior honorific academy for academicians and intelligentsia in Japan?

Okoshi:

Yes. One of my senior colleagues became a member recently, and he is now seventy, Yamamura.

Takahashi:

He is going to make an interview of professor Yamamura the day after tomorrow.

Okoshi:

Please don't tell this. He was joking to me, "I am the youngest member!" I have many jokes he told me. He is one of the youngest members in the engineering area. In the mathematics area, or biology area, there are many younger members —

Aspray:

Right.

Okoshi:

But in engineering area he is the youngest.

Musical Composition

Aspray:

Another question I had is that we briefly touched upon your interest in music early on.

Okoshi:

I am a music lover. As I told you, the condition was very bad just after the World War II. There was very little to eat at first, very few pianos in Tokyo. Tokyo became a desert-like place at that time. So I was very ignorant, and also as I have told you, Japanese boys become aware of the beauty of music at the age of twelve or thirteen, which was true in my case. I started to compose, at the age of sixteen. After that I tried to write tunes for chamber music, for the quartet, or the sextet. This interest has lasted for more than thirty years. Sometimes I did nothing for several years, and sometimes I did just a little bit. But so far I think I have written only thirty pieces. Do you like music?

Aspray:

Yes, very much so.

Okoshi:

You may take that [a CD of his compositions].

Aspray:

Oh, I would be very pleased to have this.

Okoshi:

In an expression, which I used recently, my music is said to be unashamedly classical. It's the presentation. Because I am not a professional, just an amateur, nobody will complain. If I was a professional composer, they should complain because I imitated something. Some people say my pieces are like Bizet. Some people say, "You are Mozart." But it's just for my fun, and also for my refreshment. When I get very exhausted, I can be energized by listening to my own music.

Aspray:

Who are the performers on this?

Okoshi:

Just very professional, good players. They are the first rank artists. The privilege of old people like myself is that I have many friends, and I can ask somebody to pick up some good performers. They are both graduates of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Aspray:

I look forward to playing this. I have a CD player in my car, and I have an hour commute each way, so I'll play it then.

Okoshi:

Okay, yes. It takes only twenty-five minutes. So shorter than the commuting time —

Aspray:

Twice — twice, right. [Laughter].

Okoshi:

So in one day you can listen to it four times. I hope you will not be bored.