If you don’t live in Japan, you might have never heard of Dr. NakaMats, although he is an inventor extraordinaire! Not only has he invented the Floppy Disk, he has also earned the IG Nobel Price for his research last year. What if I tell you, that he has also invented the fax machine, magnetic paper train tickets, the synthesizer and written over 80 books? He has made over 3218 inventions already (as opposed to Thomas Edison with 1093 only) and hopes to complete 7000 inventions before his estimated death at age 144. Now what do you think? Is he the greatest unacknowledged mind of our time? Or has he simply been involved in many inventions? Or… what kind of person could he be living in a giant house in a very prestigeous neighbourhood producing one revolutionary product after the other? PingMag decided to visit this excentric Dr. Nakamats at his home and laboratory to find out. Here is the essence of a long and quirky interview.
Written by Uleshka
Photos by Maris Mezulis
It all started with the tea we were served…
Dr. Nakamats: This is made out of 13 different herbs, has a very nice taste and it makes you smarter. It is my invention called “Brain Drink”!
Thanks a lot! Tastes like… tea!?
You earned the IG Nobel prize last year. May I ask what they gave you the prize for?
For nutrition, meaning my research in finding the best possible food to eat to keep you healthy and your brain fit. I did that by taking photos of every single meal I ate for the last 35 years and analyzing what is good for health and what isn’t.
Interesting! It says, that you have licensed 16 patents to IBM for the creation of the floppy disk, the hard disc, tape transport, etc. and in your book it says that you already invented the floppy disk while you were still at college…
Yes, it took 35 years for it to eventually get produced, but I already invented it much earlier.
I see! So how did you become an inventor in the first place?
My mother taught me physics, chemistry, English, Japanese, history and humor… these basic elements from the age of 3. Then I did my first invention at the age of 5, which was an automatic gravity adjustment equipment, basically inventing how all airplanes fly now.
Yoshiro Nakamatsu at age 5 wih his first invention model
some very early sketches from the ‘NakaMatsu Research Institute of Invention Volume 2′, started in middle school (lisiting inventions No.233-400)
At the age of 14 I invented the pump. I saw that my mother was having a hard time refilling soy sauce from a big bottle to a smaller one, and wanted to create something that made life easier for her. After the war and even now people use it to refill Kerosene a lot.
That is the core of my inventions: not money, but the spirit of my inventions is LOVE!
Original pump to refill soy sauce created at age 14. Now you can buy this pump in every shop around the corner.
The Pagoda of Creativity: Dr.NakaMats teaches his technique of how to be an inventor at Tokyo’s elite university
There is an incredible variety of products in your “The Legend of Dr. Nakamats’ Inventions” book and many items can be purchased from your website. So you are not just an inventor, you are a producer as well?
Usually, inventors only “think”. I don’t consider that to be perfect. Inventors should have the capability to produce and distribute their products so that users can benefit from their thought process. My principles are theory, flash (trigger) and production. The “idea” alone does not count as an “invention”.
Is there a secret to becoming an inventor? How do you come up with new ideas?
I am teaching philosophy at the University of Tokyo and this image (above right) shows my theory: the “Pagoda of Creativity”. The base for everything is a strong spirit, followed by a strong body, hard studies, experience and finally leads to a “trigger” experience. You “trigger” a bullet which contains spirit, body, study and experience – and finally that releases the actual invention.
How do you ‘trigger’ an invention?
A lack of oxygen is very important.
A lack? Isn’t that dangerous??
It’s very dangerous. I get that Flash just 0.5 sec before death. I remain under the surface until this trigger comes up and I write it down with a special waterproof plexiglas writing pad I invented.
Do you do that a lot? Putting yourself in that kind of situation to come up with a new invention?
This is the Dr. Nakamatsu method. Another possible method is to use a completely calm room – that could even be my toilet which shuts out every noise and every magnetic and electronic field. Such a calm room erases all noise from your brain, you can concentrate and think.
After that you can go to a dynamic room, listen to music and mix thoughts inside your brain. The environment is very important for inventing.
True! You seem to be quite interested in passing on your knowledge about how to become a genius. You even have a so called “Genius Academy” in your house. Could you quickly explain what that is?
Well, I’m doing many things here… I have 29 guest houses called “Dr. Nakamats Green Terrace” and there are 29 geniuses living here: computer geniuses, artistic geniuses… There is a waiting list of about 100 people who simply want to live here to get inspired by me and my inventions. Every month I give a lecture where I teach spirit, creativity and many other things. We also sing a song about the spirit of invention being LOVE.
Oh! I’ve heard the Dr.NakaMats song!
Drinks for thought, “Yummy Nutri Brain Foods”, exercise, singing songs or using your Cerebrex chair (which is supposed to improve the brain capability by increasing your blood circulation through electricity)… All these inventions should help you to get smarter.
Special sound frequencies pulse from footrest to headrest, stimulating your blood circulation and increasing the synaptic activity in the brain. Apparently one hour in the Cerebrex chair refreshes the brain equally to eight hours of sleep. Dr. Nakamats takes a nap in it every day.
illustration showing how the Cerebrex chair works
But is there anyone you consider close to becoming the next Dr. Nakamats? The next genius? Your sons maybe?
No. Invention is very difficult.
A friend of mine has seen some students wearing your flying shoes on a campus in the US and you wore them on stage yourself when House of Pain played “jump around” in Japan. What would you call your most successful invention? What product is used most by people?
All my inventions are a 100% success, because they are based on the philosophy of creativity and inventiveness.
I made many things… sampling, too! Sampling is the basis of a synthesizer, so every musician is using my invention. Who is that blind musician again….
Yes, he came up to me and said “thank you for inventing this”.
Dr.NakaMatsu in the old days with his synthesizer
Now in his library amongst old recording devices and other inventions
On our way to the Dr. Nakamats Lab, we noticed many little strange things around the house. One being the funny angle on the left side of the stairs. Encouraged by Dr. Nakamats I used them accordingly (half stepping on them while going up) and realized that this little trick really made my way up easier!
This ‘first floppy disk reader ever made’ was built by Dr.NakaMatsu himself out of wood. He received a Japanese patent in 1952 for inventing magnetic and light sensors, the core of the floppy disk technology – 20 years before IBM.
one of the first floppy discs framed along with various awards in the Dr.NakaMats lab
Arriving in the lab, we felt like entering a museum of its own kind. All inventions could be seen as prototypes or final products: Cerebrex chairs, the first floppy disk reader ever made and Dr. Nakamats’ revolutionary golf putter.
What is this? Looks like a motor…
Yes, this is also an important invention. In the future all the cars will be running with this, called the Dr.Nakamats Nostradam vs Engine II. It can run with just water, so there is no pollution at all.
Suddenly I look up and notice… What is this table doing there on the ceiling???
Oh, this is the table I used with my mother and father. I invented some things sitting at that table, which is why I put it in this room.
On the ceiling…
I see! What are you actually currently working on?
Many things, but the latest invention is probably the Love Jet 200, the strongest of this series so far. If you spray this onto yourself, you can attract people and your skin will get better, too.
What is this wig with wheels doing on that table?
This is for a film called Dura deka (Police detective with a wig), which is currently screened at Cine Quint in Shibuya. I’m in the film, too and I invented this wig for it.
Well, it’s been a very inspiring tour! Is there anything else, any message from you to our readers?
My message is… the spirit of invention is LOVE.
Thank you very much, Dr. NakaMats! It’s been a very interesting conversation.