Name: Takayuki Ohira
Occupation: Planetarium creator
Dislikes: Jealousy, envy
1. What do the kanji that comprise your first name — 貴之 — mean? Would you say they match your personality? They mean “precious.” I’m not sure how much they match my personality — sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t.
2. What do you miss most about Japan when you are overseas? The food, especially ramen.
3. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? “Ningen wa kanō wa shōmei dekiru ga fukanō wa shōmei dekinai” (“人間は可能は証明できるが不可能は証明 できない” [or, roughly, “One can prove possibility, but not impossibility”]). It’s difficult to translate this into English because it carries a deep philosophical meaning.
4. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? Aitah koigile. (“Thank you everyone” in Estonian). I’ve visited Estonia several times to install Megastar planetariums there.
5. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? I built a handmade rocket that I was able to fly above the clouds.
6. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? A customer once asked me if they could enjoy a planetarium by just being outdoors, without any building.
7. You created your first planetarium when you were just 10 years old. What difficulties did you encounter at the time? I found it incredibly difficult to make the stars sharp enough.
8. Describe your very first impression of the night sky. I don’t remember my very first impression, but I remember seeing the Milky Way when I was in Australia in high school. It was so beautiful. I clearly felt the depth of the universe.
9. Do you have a favorite star or constellation? What’s so special about it? The Crux (commonly known as the Southern Cross). Located in the Milky Way, it’s a small and beautiful constellation that features bright stars.
10. What is your favorite music about stars? “Megastar Symphony” — a symphony that French composer Eric Aron dedicated to my Megastar.
11. What is your favorite space-related science-fiction movie? What’s so good about it? “A Space Odyssey.” If we’re talking about novels, I like James P. Hogan’s “Inherit the Stars,” the first book in his Giants series. In “Inherit the Stars,” a scientist discovers the origins of the birth of humanity. It concludes with a dream and a strong hope for the future.
12. In 1998, you created a portable projector called the Megastar that was able to display 1 million stars and took it to London to show the International Planetarium Society, checking the 27-kilogram device in at the airport in your hand luggage. How did you manage to get it on board without paying a surcharge? I didn’t do anything special. The projector was in a box I had made myself and didn’t look valuable.
13. In 2008, you created the Super Megastar II, a planetarium projector that can display up to 22 million stars — the highest number of stars in the world. How many stars do you think it’s possible to see on a projector one day? One billion. I’m already working on this.
14. Is there a particular star system that is difficult to replicate in planetarium projectors? Bright double stars.
15. The naked eye can see no more than 10,000 stars in the sky at night. Does your familiarity with star maps help you to see more than the average human? The fainter stars cannot be seen with the naked eye. However, they become noticeable when they are grouped together.
A good example is the Milky Way. Most individual stars in the Milky Way are invisible, but, together, we are able to see them.
16. Which of your planetarium devices are you most proud of? The Megastar-III Fusion that is located in the Kawasaki Municipal Science Museum. The stars depicted are beautiful, and it uses a technology created specifically by us — fusion. This device projects a night sky that audiences have never seen before.
17. Do you prefer to work during the day or at night? Both, including the time I spend working on planetariums. My work is my life.
18. If you could share a bottle of wine with any astronaut from history, who would it be? Yuri Gagarin. He died early in life. It would be interesting to hear how his life changed after he went into space.
19. What do you dream of doing? I would love to find a solution to the world’s energy problems.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Dreams do not always come true but they are always worth chasing, however challenging. And, sometimes, in striving to achieve a dream, we can accomplish something larger than the original thing we were aiming for. Be sure to chase your dreams!
For more info on the megastar planetarium, visit www.megastar.jp/en/index.php.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5