Koizumi dines with Nobel laureates

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi invited Japan’s two most recent Nobel laureates to his official residence Friday for a special congratulatory luncheon.

Koizumi greeted Masatoshi Koshiba and Koichi Tanaka and joked that the three are like “brothers” in terms of age.

The 43-year-old Tanaka said later he was “a little embarrassed” when the 60-year-old Koizumi called him a “master.”

Koizumi, Koshiba and Tanaka spoke about Japan’s future in science and technology.

While Koizumi repeatedly praised the two scientists’ achievements, Tanaka said, “There are a lot of people who are not as well recognized as me and it is important to shed light on those people and appreciate their achievements.”

Koshiba, 76, stressed the importance of government support for research, saying, “I hope the government will support basic science studies . . . as there is no support from the industrial world in this area.”

Koshiba and Koizumi are alumni of the same high school in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The luncheon was arranged after Koizumi invited Koshiba to the luncheon over the phone on Wednesday, noting they had met at a past alumni reunion.

Tanaka was invited after he was named a Nobel winner later that day.

Koshiba shared his Nobel in physics with Raymond Davis and Riccardo Giacconi of the United States. He was honored for his contributions to confirming the existence of cosmic neutrinos by developing and using the gigantic Kamiokande neutrino detector, which is installed at a depth of 1 km in a mine in Kamioka, Gifu Prefecture.

Tanaka shared the Nobel in chemistry with John Fenn of the U.S. and Kurt Wuethrich of Switzerland. They were recognized for their contributions to the studies of proteins that have paved the way for the development of new medicines and the early diagnosis of cancer.

They will attend an award ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.