Biologist and professor emeritus at the Kyoto University
Norio Nakatsuji was born in Hashimoto City in Wakayama Prefecture. He graduated from Prefectural Hashimoto High School and due to his interest in biology studied at the Faculty and Graduate School of Science at Kyoto University, where he earned a Doctor of Science degree. After conducting research overseas, he served as a professor at the National Institute of Genetics and at the Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences, Kyoto University. He successfully established a strain of human embryonic stem cells for the first time in Japan and established a system for distributing it. He’s active as the director of the Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, and of the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences. He leads research and development projects through industry-academia collaboration and helps launch university-affiliated ventures. When he retired from Kyoto University, he contributed to the development of new drugs for stem cells and their application to regenerative medicine by establishing Kyoto Stem Cell Innovation, Inc., and Stem Cell & Device Laboratory, Inc., where he serves as a director. He also established the Nakatsuji Foresight Foundation (of which he serves as representative director), to pursue public-interest projects such as helping train a new generation of young researchers.
I was born in Suda Town district of Hashimoto City, on the north shore of the Kino-kawa River, and from the time I was little I wondered what lay deep in the chain of mountains on the other side. I played on nearby burial mounds and in stone chambers, and I know about the ancient history of places like Mt. Matsuchi, which appears in the Man’yoshu anthology of poetry. I climbed Koyasan with friends while I was a high-school student, and I visited Kumano and Odaigahara with the Biology Club. Having grown up in the midst of rich natural beauty and history, I found my interest in biology deepening, and I enrolled at the Faculty of Science at Kyoto University. When I visited the Minakata Kumagusu Museum in Shirahama Town during a camp-style retreat at the university’s Seto Marine Biological Laboratory, I met a pioneer in biodiversity research and ecosystem conservation. I went on to work as a researcher in Japan and overseas, but looking back after my retirement I realize that although I was motivated, my time was occupied exclusively by my job. Naturally I’ve had good times and difficult times, but I’ve always found that relaxing in great, unmoving nature and history gave me tranquility. The root of such tranquility for me is the rich, deep natural and historical landscape that unfolds on the southern side of the Kino-kawa River.