On Oct. 3, Japan celebrated the news that Tokyo-based microbiologist Yoshinori Ohsumi had won a Nobel Prize. It was the third consecutive year for a Japanese scientist to win a Nobel.

Yet the achievements of Ohsumi, 71, and other recent laureates seem increasingly out of reach for young Japanese researchers struggling to secure jobs amid a shift in focus toward practical research and a glut of people with doctorates.

At a news conference following his Nobel award, Ohsumi said the entire discipline of science is in danger. He said it will "hollow out" unless young Japanese researchers are given a chance to engage in long-term research.