An Interview with inventor Dr Nakamats by Chic Thompson

Nakamats (AKA Nakamatsu)

In my country, the drive to succeed-and the competition-is unbelievably intense. From early on, Japanese children are under enormous pressure to learn. I was fortunate that my parents encouraged my natural curiosity along with my academic learning from the very beginning. They gave me the freedom to create and invent-which I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.

Chic:
What are the teaching methods used to prepare Japanese children for the strong competition they face? And how does this affect creativity?

Nakamats:
One method is memorization. We teach our kids to memorize until the age of twenty, for we have discovered that the human brain needs memorization up to that point. Then young people can begin free-associating, putting everything together. That’s how geniuses are formed. If a child doesn’t learn how to memorize effectively, he doesn’t reach his full potential.

Chic:
So you feel that creativity comes from a balance of regimentation and freedom?

Nakamats:
Yes, but freedom is most important of all. Genius lies in developing complete and perfect freedom within a human being. Only then can a person come up with the best ideas.

Chic:
We have a difficult time in this country because we don’t allow ourselves that kind of freedom. We have what we call the Protestant work ethic that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” To me, trying too hard stifles creativity.

Nakamatsu:
That’s unfortunate. It’s crucial to be able to find the time and the freedom to develop your best ideas.

Chic:
Then tell me about your routine to spark creativity. I’ve heard that you come up with ideas underwater!

Nakamats:
Yes, that’s part of a three-step process. When developing ideas, the first rule is You have to be calm. So I’ve created what I call my “static” room. It’s a place of peace and quiet. In this room, I only have natural things: a rock garden, natural running water, plants, a five-ton boulder from Kyoto. The walls are white. I can look out on the Tokyo skyline, but in the room there is no metal or concrete-only natural things like water and rock and wood.

Chic:
So you go into your “static” room to meditate?

Nakamats:
No, just the opposite! I go into the room to free-associate. It’s what you must do before meditating, before focusing on one thing. I just throw out ideas-I let my mind wander where it will.

Chic:
I call that “naive incubation.”

Nakamats:
Yes, it’s my time to let my mind be free. Then I go into my “dynamic” room, which is just the opposite of my “static” room. The “dynamic” room is dark, with black-and-white-striped walls, leather furniture, and special audio and video equipment. I’ve created speakers with frequencies between 12 and 40,000 hertz-which, you can imagine, are quite powerful. I start out listening to jazz, then change to what you call “easy listening,” and always end with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. For me, Beethoven’s Fifth is good music for conclusions.

Chic:
And finally you go to your swimming pool…

Nakamats:
Exactly-the final stage. I have a special way of holding my breath and swimming underwater-that’s when I come up with my best ideas. I’ve created a Plexiglas writing pad so that I can stay underwater and record these ideas. I call it “creative swimming.”

Chic:
That seems to fit very well with the strategy I teach in my creativity workshops: discover and use your “idea-friendly times.”

Nakamats:
Yes, but in doing this, you must prepare your body. You can only eat the best foods. You cannot drink alcohol.

Chic:
I’ve heard that you’ve come up with your own “brain food.”

Nakamatsu:
Yes, these are snacks I’ve invented, which I eat during the day. I’ve marketed them as Yummy Nutri Brain Food. They are very helpful to the brain’s thinking process. They are a special mixture of dried shrimp, seaweed, cheese, yogurt, eel, eggs, beef, and chicken livers-all fortified with vitamins.

Chic:
How many people-technicians, researchers, and assistants-do you employ to help with your inventions?

Nakamats:
In all, I have 110 employees.

Chic:
And what exactly do they do?

Nakamats:
They work with my ideas, make prototypes, and give other assistance with details.

Chic:
Do you come up with ideas at night?

Nakamatsu:
I come up with ideas anytime! I only sleep four hours a night.

Chic:
That’s interesting-that’s very similar to Thomas Edison. Do you take naps like he did?

Nakamats:
Yes. Twice a day I take thirty-minute naps in a special chair I’ve designed-the Cerebrex chair. It improves memory, math skills, and creativity, and it can lower blood pressure, improve eyesight, and cure other ailments.

Chic:
How does the Cerebrex work?

Nakamatsu:
Special sound frequencies pulse from footrest to headrest, stimulating blood circulation and increasing synaptic activity in the brain. An hour in my chair refreshes the brain as much as eight hours of sleep.

Chic:
So, like Edison, you’re awake most of the time. Do you agree with Edison’s claim that ideas are 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration?

Nakamats:
No, now it’s just the opposite! Now it’s 1 percent perspiration and 99 percent “ikispiration.” Now, more than ever, we have to have ikispiration. This means I encourage myself to go through my three elements of creation: suji, the theory of knowledge; pika, inspiration; and iki, practicality, feasibility, and marketability. In order to be successful, you must go through all three stages and make sure that your ideas stand up to all of them, which is ikispiration. Also, these days, the computer saves time and cuts out the 99 percent perspiration.

Chic:
Do you find that most American research-and-development firms take themselves through your three stages?

Nakamatsu:
Most are very thorough with suji, or theory, but don’t concentrate on the iki, marketability. Hardest of all, of course, is pika, the creative inspiration. Researchers often have trouble with pika because they’re too focused on one particular element. A genius must be a well-rounded person, familiar with many things: art, music, science, sports. He or she can’t be restricted to only one field of expertise.

Chic:
Well, you certainly appear to practice what you preach. You know so much about music, about art, about sports.

Nakamats:
That’s what genius is, when you’re able to discuss, and to be good at, many things. As much as I enjoy hearing about the things you [Chic] have invented during your chemistry career, about your teaching, about your video programs, I’m most fascinated by the fact that a person who can be a chemist and a teacher and a speaker can also be a cartoonist. And at such a young age!

Chic:
Well, people do kid me about looking young, but I could say the same thing about you.

Nakamats:
That comes from eating the right foods and participating in the right athletics. Certain activities I believe aren’t good for creativity. To be creative, you must have perfect freedom. Sports like jogging, tennis, and golf, I don’t believe, are conducive to the brain waves for creativity.

Chic:
Hmmmm. I’d really like to see your research on that, because I know a lot of people who feel they come up with their ideas when they go out jogging. Maybe, for Americans, because we don’t allow ourselves to have perfect freedom at work, we can get part of the way there by jogging or golfing-that’s the only time we give ourselves permission to be free enough to come up with new ideas.

Nakamats:
Maybe so, but they won’t be your best ideas-you’re not at your peak creative performance if you have to use athletics or techniques to get your ideas. It’s only when you have perfect freedom that your best ideas come out.

Chic:
What are some of your suggestions to American executives on ways to become more creative?

Nakamats:
I’d like to see the work ethic in the United States more geared to creativity. We need more creative people and more creative leaders. Governments as a whole must learn to be more creative. I’ve just written a book called The Invention of Government.

I’m trying to show that through the creative process, governments-not just individuals-can be more innovative. Among my goals right now are working in political reform in Japan and improving our relationship with the United States.

I want Americans and others to understand that many of the perceived barriers between nations-trade barriers, cultural barriers-aren’t as strong as people think they are. It’s just that we don’t understand each other as well as we should, and that means we must become more open with each other.

Chic:
In that regard, I’m very impressed by your openness to discuss and to spend so many hours with me. So many people in the United States who have one or two good ideas don’t share them with anyone. They’re afraid that people are going to steal them. And here you’ve opened up an International Genius Convention-for everyone to display their ideas.

Nakamats:
No, so let’s invent a product together. What would you buy today if it were available?

Chic:
I’d buy a recording device, about the size of a credit card, that could fit in my shirt pocket. Every time I had a flash of an idea, I could just record it. It would be voice-activated, with a very large memory, and have a voice-activated filing system for idea management.

Nakamats:
What would you call it?

Chic:
I’d call it “Flash”- because it would just be flashes of ideas, which you could then download onto a computer system.

Nakamats:
Very good.

Chic:
[He then gave me a ten-minute education on micro technology and a grilling on what I thought of the idea’s market potential.]

Nakamats:
This will be our first product together, so when I get home, I’ll turn it over to my research department.Let me thank you. You seem to have the ability to network and to learn from others all the time.That’s what it takes to succeed. And, for every meeting, I like to keep a visual record. That’s why my wife has been taking pictures and recording our conversation on the camcorder. When something is on video, I can go back and reference the face and the voice, not just written notes. Now, would you please type in your name?

Chic:
Excuse me?

Nakamats:
Type in your name on this infrared recorder, and it will appear directly on the photographs that we took, along with today’s date.

Chic:
I’ve never seen anything like this!

Nakamats:
I know. One of my recent inventions.

This interview was recorded on April 29, 1990 and was published in What a Great Idea! by Chic Thompson (available at Amazon.com). Published here, with kind permission from the author.

Editors note June 19, 2014:
Yoshiro Nakamatsu  (born June 26, 1928) also known as Dr. NakaMats, is a Japanese inventor who has become a minor celebrity for his inventions. He claims to hold the world record for number of inventions with over 4,000 patents. Nakamatsu was the subject of the 2009 documentary The Invention of Dr Nakamats. HIs website is Dr.NakaMats.com.

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