Akira Haraguchi says he was never a genius in school. But at 59, the Chiba man recited pi — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — from memory to 83,431 decimal places.

“My school grades used to be always 3 out of a range of 1 to 5 at most Japanese schools, said Haraguchi, who set the new world record in July, beating the previous record of 42,195 decimal places set by a Japanese college student in 1995.

Haraguchi, a former corporate employee who now does volunteer work, said his challenge began when he was 50. His fascination with pi recitation dates back to around age 40, he added.

Back then, Haraguchi was learning physics through a college correspondence course. He said he realized that things in the universe are moving in circles.

With that in mind, he felt “peace of mind” when he recited pi even to a few decimal places, he said.

After his pi-recitation quest turned full-scale at age 50, Haraguchi began to memorize pi by “translating” the figures into Japanese words in accordance with the figures’ pronunciation in the language, he said.

On a daily basis, Haraguchi memorized translated words. As the chain became longer, he tried to memorize them in the way that they form sentences. As the number of sentences became large, he tried to memorize them as if they form a story.

“Don’t try too hard. Enjoy it,” Haraguchi said. “If you do it out of a sense of obligation, you will surely fail.”

Another tip for challengers: Relax when releasing what’s stored in your memory.

“Just because you can’t recite doesn’t mean your memory has been erased,” he said. “It’s just that you have trouble setting the right path” to the desired information.

Hisashi Shiota, an expert in brain behavior who analyzed Haraguchi’s brain wave spectrum while he was memorizing numbers, said alpha waves were observed more often than the average. The waves can be seen when people feel relaxed, like when engaging in hobbies.

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