Honorary Memberships

Honorary memberships were up to now granted to Hisashi Kato, Professor Dr. Dr. Eiichi Arai (†) and Professor Dr. Yasuo Tanaka (†).

Hisashi Kato

Verleihung der Ehrenmitgliedschaft an Herrn Kato Hisashi (Fotos: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Reischuk)

The JSPS Club rarely makes use of its statutory right to confer honorary memberships. So far, only the two heads of the Bonn JSPS office who have retired since the establishment of the JSPS Club in 1995, namely Arai Eiichi and Tanaka Yasuo, bear this distinction. In 2013, the General Assembly decided to propose honorary membership to a third person. This could be handed over to Kato Hisashi of JSPS Tokyo in the form of a certificate by the chairman of the JSPS club during the symposium in Erlangen.

Mr. Kato has not only been employed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science from the beginning of his professional life, but has also always been responsible for the JSPS Club in one way or another. Even for the time he was on loan to the International Office of the University of Tokyo, he was available to talk to. The first business card the Chairman received from Mr. Kato is dated April 16, 1996, the time of the first joint symposium of JSPS and JSPS Club in Germany. It identifies him as the Deputy Head, Information and Fellowships Division. The current one identifies him as the Director of one of the four Departments, namely the International Program Department.

His constant promotion is an expression of his dedication. Several times he has been present at the joint symposia of JSPS and JSPS Club in Germany and has spoken the greetings for JSPS. He has played a major role in organizing the so far two joint symposia in Japan. Thus, he is personally familiar to many members, not only through his work in Tokyo. Actually, he was supposed to retire in the summer of this year because of reaching the age limit, but it was preferred to keep him on for some more time.

The JSPS Club thanks Mr. Kato for his long and intensive cooperation and would be pleased if he would remain connected to the JSPS Club after his retirement, as well as the other two honorary members.

Heinrich Menkhaus

Source: NvC 02-03/2014


Prof. Dr. Dr. Eiichi Arai (†)

The JSPS office in Bonn, which has become a permanent and familiar institution, was not established until 1992. Just one year later, Prof. Eiichi Arai replaced the founding director Prof. Naito as head of the JSPS representative office in Germany. Prof. Arai was already familiar with Germany since his time as a postdoc at the Nuclear Research Center Karlsruhe in the 1960s.

Lively scientific cooperation, among others with the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, had kept the contact ever since. Prof. Arai devoted himself to his new task with the same dedication as to his scientific research. On the one hand, Germany was the basis for a Europe-wide initiative to stimulate scientific exchange with Japan; on the other hand, our country, with its only recently completed reunification and the associated upheaval, especially in the eastern federal states, was a challenge in itself.

However, the meeting of former scholarship holders in Bonn, organized for the first time by Prof. Arai in 1995, was particularly important for the fate of our association. At this meeting, Prof. Arai initially suggested the foundation of an alumni association as a vision. An idea that met with astonishingly fertile ground. Already in the summer of the same year, a small group of determined people met in the rooms of the JSPS office in Bonn, and the “German Society of JSPS Scholars” was founded. At that time, Prof. Yasuo Tanaka had just taken over the management of the office from Prof. Arai, so both could attend the foundation in an advisory capacity. The further history is well known: The association quickly grew to its present size, the first symposium was held the following year, and the development has gone far beyond the expectations of the time. However, all this would hardly have happened if Prof. Arai had not sowed the seeds at the right time and in the right place.

For this reason, it was decided at the general meeting in 2001 to confer honorary membership on Prof. Arai. This decision was then implemented at the 2002 symposium in Dresden, to which the association had invited Prof. Arai. To the great applause of all participants, the honorary certificate was presented to him in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel.

The association is very happy about the new member, who has always been connected with the association in his heart.

Uwe Czarnetzki

Source: NvC 03/2003

 Prof. Dr. Dr. Eiichi Arai passed away on April 2, 2018 at the age of 82.

Obituary by club member Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bentz in NvC 02/2018 (in German)


Prof. Dr. Yasuo Tanaka (†)

Laudation for Prof. Dr. Yasuo Tanaka on the occasion of the award of honorary membership in the German JSPS Alumni Association on May 11, 2012 in Münster

In spring 1995, at the invitation of the then head of the JSPS office in Bonn, Prof. Dr. Eiichi Arai, a first meeting of former fellows of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science from Germany had taken place in Bonn. At this meeting, which was attended by more than 100 fellows, the idea of establishing an alumni association of the former German fellows of the JSPS, following the example of the numerous Humboldt Associations, came up. The project received staff support from the JSPS Office in Bonn. In the summer of 1995, in the rooms of the old JSPS Office in the so-called Bonn Center, the founding meeting of the alumni association took place, which was named “German JSPS Alumni Association” or JSPS Club for short. The founding meeting was attended by the still acting director of the JSPS Office, Prof. Arai, who was later offered the first honorary membership by the JSPS Club, and the already designated new director of the Bonn JSPS Office, Prof. Tanaka. Prof. Tanaka had already come to Germany about two years earlier as a research award winner of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, where he became an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching near Munich. He is still active there today. The agreement between the JSPS Club and the JSPS Office provided that the JSPS Club could use the JSPS Office as its office and that a JSPS Office staff member would be made available for JSPS Club tasks, if necessary

As a first and still continuing common activity, the annual organization of a symposium with changing current topics at changing locations in Germany was developed. Not only the members of the JSPS Club, but all alumni together with their partners are invited. This series of events enjoys great popularity. The number of participants varies between 200 and 300 people, depending on the venue and the topic. The topic itself was always decided together with Mr. Tanaka. Given the origins of the vast majority of the fellows in the natural sciences and engineering, the topics were taken predominantly from the field of these sciences. Over time, however, a compromise was reached to have at least one person speak on social science aspects of the topic in view of the participants from the humanities and social sciences. The number of speakers has always been balanced. Three from Japan and three from Germany spoke. Mr. Tanaka has always sought to have the three speakers from Japan after consultation with JSPS HQ in Tokyo. His long scientific career in Japan itself has been very helpful in this regard.

To this annual event has been added, from the year 2003, another annual event intended only for members of the JSPS Club. It is entitled “Members Invite members”. Members invite the others to their company, their research institute or to their chair. The scientific program is always accompanied by Japan-related events. In the years when Prof. Tanaka was head of the JSPS office, this event was held once, in 2006, in Düsseldorf.

Unscheduled events also include a number of events in which the JSPS Office and the JSPS Club have participated together. These include, for example, the event “Academic Bridges between Japan and Germany” held in June 2004 as part of the annual Japan Day in Düsseldorf and the event “Urban Planning - Sustainable Cities” held as part of the Year of Germany in Japan in September 2005 in Tokyo.

In addition to the events, various other activities of the JSPS Club have been developed in close cooperation with the JSPS Office. First of all, these include the publications. Apart from the contributions of the mentioned symposium, the newsletter “News from the Club” is published, which is sent out together with the newsletter of the JSPS Office. This also includes a brochure “Japanspezialisten” (Japan specialists), now in its 3rd edition, in which former scholarship holders can introduce themselves in order to find a job, or to be employed as experts, consultants, etc. The brochure is distributed free of charge with the help of the Federation of German Industries, the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Düsseldorf, and other organizations.

Other activities of the JSPS Club include close cooperation with the German scientific intermediary organizations, all of which are partners of JSPS in Germany, and the Japanese intermediary organizations. For historical reasons, the cooperation with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is the closest in this respect, so that the JSPS Office and the JSPS Club participate in the network meetings of the Humboldt Foundation, which have been held for some years now not only in Bonn, and form a separate Japan group for those who have just returned from Japan and those who are currently on their way to Japan.

Also in the restructuring and revision of scholarship programs, the cooperation between the JSPS Office and the JSPS Club has proven to be very viable. The result of a joint working group was not only the homepage: Research in Japan, but also the introduction of taster scholarships on the part of JSPS within the framework of a summer program for young German scientists, as well as the introduction of a scholarship for Japan, which is not only available for so-called postdocs, but already for those who are just involved with the doctoral thesis itself.

In the meantime, the JSPS Club has achieved such a high visibility that it has received the right to propose various scientific awards in the German-Japanese relationship, such as the Seibold Award, has a seat and a vote in the selection committee of the fellowship program for the promotion of Japan-related research that is awarded by the two Japanese Humboldt Associations, is represented in the Japan working group of the BMBF, etc.

All these activities and, consequently, a considerable increase in the number of members of the JSPS Club would not have been possible without the constant support and encouragement of Prof. Tanaka. He did not disdain the JSPS Club from the beginning as a child of the predecessor, but actively promoted it. He has been a strong advocate of the JSPS Club in budget negotiations at JSPS headquarters in Tokyo because JSPS is still the largest funder of the JSPS Club and because all attempts at greater co-funding by German institutions have so far failed, in contrast to JSPS Clubs in other countries that can enjoy co-funding by the respective home state because of the terms of reference. As a rule, the board meeting of the JSPS Club was followed by a discussion with Prof. Tanaka and his staff in Bonn in order to coordinate the common ideas and goals. Over the years, a close relationship of trust has developed between the board of the JSPS Club and Prof. Tanaka. Mrs. Tanaka has also been involved in this relationship of trust. She has always been interested in the private concerns of the members of the JSPS Club board and has tried to help where possible.

The JSPS Club, whose membership Prof. Tanaka took up immediately after his retirement from his position as head of the JSPS Office, is extremely grateful to him for his work over the past 13 years. It wishes the new honorary member and his wife a long and, above all, healthy retirement.

Heinrich Menkhaus

Yasuo Tanaka 1931–2018

Obituary by Joachim Trümper / January 30, 2018

Yasuo Tanaka at MPE during his 70th birthday celebration. © MPE

Yasuo Tanaka died of a heart attack in Tokyo on January 18, 2018, just three months after returning to his home country from a 23-year stay at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE). It was at MPE that he had completed most of his rich life’s work in the field of high-energy astrophysics and promoted scientific exchange between Japan and Germany/Europe. He is survived by his wife Toshiko and three sons with their families.

Yasuo Tanaka was born in 1931 near Osaka, Japan, the middle of three sons. During World War II, he had to work in a factory and endure heavy bombardment as a child, but he also suffered hardship and hunger in the years that followed. He joined the physics department of Osaka University in 1950 and received his PhD in physics in 1961, when at the same time he was already a member of a research group led by Minoru Oda at the air show experiment at the Institute for Nuclear Study (University of Tokyo).

We met for the first time in August 1961 at the Cosmic Ray conference in Kyoto; afterwards he showed me the very impressive air shower facility in Tokyo. In 1962, he accepted an offer from Satio Hayakawa to become an assistant professor at Nagoya University, and only a year later he accepted an invitation from Jan Oort to come to the Netherlands. It was his first contact with the Western astronomy community, and later he often said that those four years had changed his life. Conversations with the famous astrophysicists Jan Oort and Henk van de Hulst opened new horizons for the young scientist, and Lo Woltjer and Johann Bleeker, who were almost his peers, became his lifelong friends. Together with Bleeker, he started the Nagoya-Leiden collaboration, which aimed to measure electrons of cosmic rays with balloon-borne detectors.

At the same time, in 1962, Riccardo Giacconi and his group discovered the first extrasolar X-ray source Sco X-1 and the soft X-ray background radiation, changing the lives of many scientists who had previously studied cosmic rays. This was also true for Tanaka and Bleeker, who shifted the focus of their joint balloon program from electrons to the hard X-ray background. This pioneering work continued after Tanaka returned to Nagoya in 1967, where he joined the X-ray satellite program initiated by his teacher Oda at Tokyo University.

In 1974, Tanaka moved to the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Engineering (ISAS) as a professor, which had become the central institution for space research in Japan. During his 20 years at ISAS, he shaped the research program in X-ray astronomy. He was Principal Investigator for four X-ray satellites: Hakucho (launched in 1979), Tenma (1983), Ginga (1987), and ASCA (1993). For two other missions involving observations of the Sun, Hinotori (1981) and Yohkoh, he was a consultant.

This impressive series of X-ray satellites led to a long list of important scientific results and discoveries in various fields of astrophysics. Tanaka’s own interest was primarily in the observation of matter-accreting stellar and massive black holes. He co-authored a number of reviews on this topic and was the lead author of a seminal article in the journal Nature based on the discovery of the broad and asymmetric iron-Ka line in the spectrum of the active galaxy MCG-6-30-15 with Ginga, which opened up a completely new diagnostic of the accretion disk close to the black hole. The following mission, ASCA, was also a great success. ROSAT and ASCA, which excelled in their complementary properties, dominated X-ray astronomy in the 1990s. Tanaka's great achievements at ISAS were the result of his organizational skills, coupled with foresight and determination.

After his retirement from ISAS in 1994, Tanaka accepted an invitation to MPE funded by a Humboldt Award. During his 23 years at MPE, he continued his scientific research together with scientists from MPE, MPA, and his former colleagues in Japan. In 1995, he was appointed Director of the European-German Office of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) in Bonn, whose work he directed largely from MPE from 1995 to 2008.

Tanaka has received numerous awards from national and international organizations for his achievements. In Germany, he was awarded the Humboldt Prize (1994), the Eugen and Ilse Seibold Prize of the German Research Foundation (1999), and the Order of Merit of the State of Northrhine-Westphalia. In 2001, he was appointed Foreign Scientific Member of the MPE. The last and most important recognition for him was the election to the prestigious Japan Academy in 2012.

Until the end, Tanaka participated actively in the scientific life at MPE and MPA. Every morning he came to the institute and stayed until late evening. At our daily lunches, we enjoyed talking about the latest advances in astrophysics and issues in world politics. Close friendships developed between the Tanaka couple and the spouses of some MPE and MPA colleagues, with many meetings held together. Yasuo Tanaka and his wife Toshiko loved the nearby mountains and lakes; they traveled all over Germany on vacations and Bavaria on weekends. They enjoyed Munich’s rich cultural scene and often spent the New Year in Vienna, where they were particularly impressed by Johann Strauss’s “Fledermaus”.

In recent years, Tanaka’s health deteriorated significantly, and he finally decided to return to Japan after a long struggle. In early October 2017, they flew home to their house in Tokyo and their sons.

In Yasuo Tanaka, our Institute and the astrophysical community lose a great scientist and a friend with a warm and generous personality. He will be fondly remembered by his colleagues, friends, and astronomers around the world.

 Prof. Dr. Yasuo Tanaka passed away on January 18, 2018 at the age of 86.

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Neues vom Club 03/2023