November 3, 2011 - Culture Day in Japan

and Jokichi Takamine's Birthday

Today is Bunka no hi in Japan: a day to celebrate culture and the arts. There are art exhibits, festivals, and parades, and schools and the government present awards to deserving artists and also to those who achieve in science or other areas of culture.

Interesting note: I immediately assumed that the prizes would be awarded to Japanese citizens for promoting Japanese culture and arts, but it is not necessarily the case. Back in the late 1960s, for example, the Apollo 11 astronauts (all Americans) were awarded by the emperor with the highest award, the Order of Culture, for successfully landing on and returning from the moon!

Also on this day...

In 1854, Jokichi Takamine was born in Japan. He learned English as a child from a Dutch family (and so always spoke English with a Dutch accent), and although he received most of his education in Japan, he went to Scotland for postgraduate work.

Takamine became a chemist. In 1884 he traveled to the U.S., where he fell in love with the woman who would be his wife. Later he emigrated to the U.S. and continued his work in chemistry. He worked with creating medicines and quickly became a millionaire.

Because of Takamine, the mayor of Tokyo donated cherry blossom trees to Washington D.C., and we can still see many of these gift trees still growing in the Tidal Basin there.

Takamine's most important discovery was made in 1901, when he isolated and purified the hormone adrenaline. This was the first effective medicine for asthma and the first “glandular hormone” ever isolated.

I wonder if Takamine ever received the Order of Culture...It would've been a great birthday gift!

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