All About Japan

The Nobel Prize Road Between Toyama & Gifu

| Hida Takayama , Gifu
The Nobel Prize Road Between Toyama & Gifu

Japan has more than twenty Nobel laureates, five of whom have ties to a section of highway along Route 41 which stretches from Toyama to Hida Takayama, now known as Nobel Prize Road. You can rent a car and drive on the national highway to or from Hida Takayama to check out the haunts of some of Japan's most illustrious scientists.

Toyama: Hometown of Koichi Tanaka (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2002)

Toyama: Hometown of Koichi Tanaka (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2002)

Toyama City, capital of Toyama Prefecture, is one of the leading environmentally-friendly cities in Japan, and is also the starting point of the Nobel Prize Road. The city is known as a major center for the pharmaceutical industry. Chemist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Koichi Tanaka, was born and raised in Toyama City. Tanaka says that this location brought out the originality needed for his discoveries, and the panorama of the peaks of the Hida mountain range always calmed him. While exploring Toyama make sure to take time to gaze at the magnificent views of the peaks... who knows, you may find some breakthroughs of your own!

Osawano: Childhood Home of Susumu Tonegawa (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1987)

Osawano: Childhood Home of Susumu Tonegawa (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1987)

Route 41 passes through Osawano (now part of Toyama City), which nurtured another great physiologist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Susumu Tonegawa throughout his elementary and early middle school years. Much like Tanaka, Tonegawa also speaks of how the rich natural environment of the countryside nurtured his creativity. He even left a stone monument carved with the characters for "creation" (創造) perched above the town during his later years, as a token of thanks for the gift of creativity which came from his boyhood experiences there.

Super-Kamiokande Neutrino Observatory: Masatoshi Koshiba & Takaaki Kajita (Nobel Prize in Physics 2002 & 2015)

After passing the Jinzu Gorge, found near the border between Toyama and Gifu prefecture, you will go past a world famous neutrino observatory, Super-Kamiokande. Two Nobel laureates, Masatoshi Koshiba and his pupil Takaaki Kajita worked at the observatory for many years. Koshiba succeeded in building a huge detecting device 1,000m underground, eventually proving the existence of neutrinos in cosmic radiation. Kajita continued his research and succeeded in detecting neutrino oscillations. Kajita lived in Toyama for several years, and said that the natural environment there gives a sense of wonder, which creates a gateway for natural science and scientific breakthroughs.

Since the observatory is located 1,000m underground, you won't be able to see it from the road. However, if you want to learn more about Super-Kamiokande, be sure to stop over at Sky Dome, a roadside station nearby which offers exhibits about the observatory.

Takayama: Childhood Home of Hideki Shirakawa (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2000)

Pretty Hida Takayama marks the end (or beginning) of the Nobel Prize Road and also nurtured a Nobel laureate, Hideki Shirakawa. He was raised in Takayama during his early years and later discovered conductive polymers, which led to receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He said he used to scamper around the fields of Hida Takayama, and we can well imagine that being surrounded by such a beautiful natural environment there nurtured his inquisitiveness.