Reminiscences: The Past President – Prof. Masami Fukuoka

The Past President – Prof. Masami Fukuoka

Interviewer: Prof. Osamu Kusakabe and Dr. Pongsakorn Punrattanasin
Date: December 2, 2006 (14:00-17:00)
Place: President’s Room, the Japanese Geotechnical Society

Prof. Masami Fukuoka

His personal history: Born in 1917. Graduated from Civil Engineering Department, University of Tokyo in 1941. Entered Public Works Research Institute, Ministry of the Interior in the same year as a civil engineer. Made a first report at the 3rd International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in 1953. Director of the Public Works Research Institute, Ministry of the Construction (1967–1970). Professor at University of Tokyo (1971– 1977). President of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering (1977-1981). Professor at Science University of Tokyo (1977-1997). President of Public Works Research Center (1989-1993).

Q: Thank you very much for your sparing your important time for this interview. I heard you will be ninety years old next year, but you always look so young. May I ask how you keep fit?

A: My three fundamental principles for a good health are to have good sleep, good meals and regular motions. I cook my own meals considering about good balance of nutrition and I chew well. Of course I don’t drink nor smoke. And I try to do moderate exercise and take a good walk. I get up at 6 o’clock and do some navy exercise and yoga for about 10 minutes and hang from a bar. I walk for 4 km with singing and carrying a 3 kg heavy bag everyday one time each in the morning and in the afternoon. Walking is very important for maintenance of thinking power. I used to take a cold bath until a short time ago because I heard from Prof. Prakash that if we make our skin stronger, then the organs become strong. I go to bed at 9 o’clock. When I was a junior high school student, I went to school by bike all the way of 16 km. In high school, I was a swimming champion. I also played rugby and tennis. In my 40s and 50s, I played golf in the early morning approximately 120 days a year.

Fukuoka 2

Prof. Fukuoka is showing his calisthenics

Q: Today, I would like to hear your story when you were in the office of president of ISSMFE for the first half part of this interview, then I would like to hear your ideas about the present and the future of the geotechnical society. To begin with, would you please talk about the story when you invited, held and managed the conference of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in 1977for the first time in Asia.

A: The decision to invite the conference was made at the Executive Committee Meeting of the 8th International Conference of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in Moscow. At that time, Germany also ran as a candidate, but partly because of the excellent speech by Prof. Yoshimi, Tokyo won by voting. At that time, there was a collateral condition to enable people to enter Japan from any country. The target countries were Israel, South Africa, Mainland China and Taiwan. In those days, the Japanese government did not issue visas for culture and sports for South Africa, because of their apartheid policy. At the Executive Committee Meeting in Istanbul, however, a motion was made by a representative from the USA that the President was requested to cancel the Tokyo Conference unless the issue had been resolved in three months, and as a matter of fact, there was a crisis that the Tokyo conference might not have been held.

I went to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with Prof. Nash, Secretary General, who had a close relationship with South Africa and asked for visa issuance permission for culture, but the Section Manager, who was well-versed in British affairs, would not give way. Nash thought that the Tokyo Conference should be cancelled. Then I made a lot of efforts to make him understand the importance of soil mechanics and foundation engineering by taking him to the site of the diaphragm wall construction and so on, and then he finally gave us his consent that issuing a business visa would be OK. That’s how Prof. Blight, Representative of South Africa, could come to Japan >> Read More