Nobel winner lauds local residents for their support of his experiments

Physicist Masatoshi Koshiba expressed his exhilaration Wednesday morning at becoming the fourth Japanese to win the Nobel Prize in physics.

“I slept only four hours last night, so I’m feeling tired. But my joyous feeling continues,” Koshiba, 76, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said outside his home in Suginami Ward.

Koshiba said he was surprised by people’s reaction to his winning the prize. “The response has been so much greater than I had imagined,” he said.

Koshiba later received a phone call from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Koizumi reportedly offered his congratulations and invited Koshiba for lunch sometime at his office.

Koshiba returned home after midnight Tuesday following a succession of interviews. It was not until then that he was received by his family, he said.

“My wife, daughter and granddaughter became formal all of a sudden and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I just said, ‘Yeah,’ ” Koshiba said, smiling.

Koshiba said he is glad to hear that residents in Kamioka, Gifu Prefecture, the location of a successor to the Kamiokande neutron detector, which he used to observe the subatomic particles, are celebrating his accomplishment.

“The people in the town have supported our experiments and been very kind to us,” Koshiba said. “It’s difficult to conduct experiments without local support. I’m really glad now.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday that Koshiba and two American scientists had won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to astrophysics.

Koshiba and American Raymond Davis Jr., 87, of the University of Pennsylvania were honored for their “pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos,” the academy said.

The other half of the prize went to American Riccardo Giacconi, 71, an astronomer who was the first to detect X-rays coming from outside our solar system.

This is the third year running that a Japanese has been honored by the academy. Koshiba is the 11th Japanese Nobel laureate overall, and the fourth to receive the physics accolade. The previous Japanese winners in physics were Hideki Yukawa in 1949, Shinichiro Tomonaga in 1965 and Leo Esaki in 1973.